Seat Belt Injuries In Car Accidents
A Dallas lawyer who can help you pursue financial compensation
It’s a fact – seat belts save lives in car accidents. According to the National Safety Council, they saved 374,276 lives between the years 1975 and 2017. That’s why most states have laws requiring the use of seat belts, and why there are so many public service announcement (PSA) campaigns urging people to buckle up when driving.
But seat belts can also cause injuries during a crash, especially in collisions that occur at high speed. Chest pain or bruising from a seat belt may seem minor at first. But these can be signs of more serious injuries that can have a significant impact on the lives of victims.
How seat belts work in an accident
When a car you are driving or riding in hits an object, or is hit by another vehicle, there is a sudden change in your car’s motion and speed. This change causes the seat belt’s locking mechanism to activate. There are two types of locking systems used:
One system is activated by the movement of the car. If the vehicle stops suddenly, a weighted pendulum swings forward, which then jams a metal bar into the toothed ratchet gear that is attached to the spool. This prevents the belt from unwinding and holds the person in place in the seat.
The other system is activated by the belt. Any jerk on the belt webbing causes a lever that is attached to the spool to shift. This then activates a device that catches the toothed ratchet gear and stops it from spinning.
In each system, the belt tightens at impact to prevent a person from being thrown against a hard surface inside the car or out of the car completely and onto the ground. But the kinetic energy transmitted through the seat belt during a crash can also result in injury. Collectively, these injuries are known as seat belt syndrome.
Types of seat belt injuries
Seat belt syndrome injuries often occur in the neck, chest, and abdominal area. Examples include:
- Cervical injuries – The seat belt pressing tightly against the neck area can result in damaged arteries, as well as fractures in the cervical spine.
- Chest injuries – The force of the seat belt pressing against the chest can result in rib fractures, a broken sternum, and bruising of the lung (known as a pulmonary contusion). Bruising of the heart (myocardial contusion) is also possible, though rare.
- Abdominal injuries – These can include lacerations to internal organs, including the liver, spleen, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, or bowels.
What are the symptoms of a seat belt injury?
People who have been injured by a seat belt in a crash may have marks on the body known as “seat belt sign.” These are patterned bruises, abrasions, and discoloration on the skin where the body made contact with the seat belt. Other symptoms of a seat belt injury include pain, bruising, stomach cramps, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
It’s important to get medical attention after an accident, even if you seem to feel OK. Some injuries, such as internal bleeding, may not have any immediate symptoms. A doctor can diagnose the injuries you do have.
How are seat belt injuries treated?
A doctor or other medical professional will examine you for any clear signs of injury, such as bruising. They will assess your airway, breathing, and circulation. Blood may be drawn for lab tests. You may also need an imaging test, such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI.
Treatment will depend on the type and severity of your injury. Some injuries – such as bruising or soft tissue damage – may be treated at home with rest and medication. Other injuries such as spinal fracture or damage to internal organs are more serious. You may need surgery, hospitalization, and other types of treatment.
Can I recover financial compensation for a seat belt injury?
Yes. If you suffered seat belt injuries in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you have the right to seek financial compensation. But the process can be complicated. The negligent driver may deny doing anything wrong, even if that driver was speeding, operating recklessly, or texting behind the wheel.
Insurance companies aren’t on your side. Their goal is to pay as little as possible so they can protect their bottom line. They use many tactics in pursuit of this goal. For example, they may question the seriousness of your seat belt injuries. They may also seek access to your medical records to look for evidence that your injuries were pre-existing.
The Marye Law Firm knows how to fight back against insurance company tactics to recover the compensation you deserve.
How a lawyer can help
A lawyer will have the resources to investigate your accident to get the facts that prove negligence on the part of the other driver. This involves gathering evidence such as video from traffic cameras, carefully reviewing accident reports, interviewing witnesses, and if needed, consulting accident reconstruction experts.
The amount of compensation you can recover depends on many factors. But in general, you can seek compensation for current and future medical expenses related to your injuries, lost wages if you couldn’t work, and other damages such as pain and suffering.
If you were involved in a car accident in which you suffered seat belt injuries, it’s important to get legal advice as soon as possible. In Texas, the statute of limitations (legal deadline) for taking legal action to recover compensation is generally two years from the date of your accident. But evidence can be lost or destroyed over time, and the memories of witnesses can fade.
An experienced Dallas car accident attorney can investigate the details of your accident and your injuries, review your legal options for recovering financial compensation, and answer any questions you have. Contact The Marye Law Firm to schedule a free case evaluation.
Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, "Seat Belt Injuries In Car Accidents."