If you get into a car accident and you are wearing a seat belt, it is possible that the seat belt could cause you additional injury. In this article, we'll explain the types of injuries that seat belts might cause, and how a car accident injury claim might be affected.
(Note: You should always wear a seat belt, not only because it is the law in most states, but also because seat belts prevent serious injuries in the vast majority of cases).
What Kinds of Injuries Can Seat Belts Cause?
Seat belts can cause injuries to the neck, back, chest, ribs, shoulder, and internal organs of the abdomen. The most common seat belt injuries are of the chest, sternum, ribs, and shoulder because of how the upper body will generally swing forward and thus move further in a car accident than will the abdomen and waist. However, seat belts have been known to cause fractured vertebrae, soft tissue injuries, and even injuries to the abdominal organs due to the force of the impact.
The seat belt causes injury because of the fact that it locks up to keep the passenger from going forward. The seat belt has to lock up in an accident because that is how it protects the passenger. If the seat belt did not lock up, or if it locked up more slowly or gently, then it would not work as well and would not protect against injury very well.
Seat belts can cause injury in any type of collision, rear end accidents, side impact, or head on, because of the manner in which your body is thrown against the locked seat belt. But the worst injuries from seat belts occur in head on collisions.
If you think about it, that makes sense because your car -- which had been moving forward at perhaps a high rate of speed -- is suddenly stopped due to the head on impact. However, even though the car stops, your upper body will continue to move forward for a split second until the seat belt stops it. Depending on the speed of the car, your body could strike the seat belt with great force. In a head on collision, it would not be unheard of for someone to suffer a serious chest bruise, internal chest injury, or even a broken collarbone.
Nevertheless, it is important to stress that a seat belt injury is far less serious than the alternative. If you are not wearing a seat belt and get into a serious car accident, you could be ejected from the car, and ejections can be fatal. There have been numerous head on collisions at high speed where surviving the accident depended on seat belt usage. Those occupants who were wearing seat belts all survived with minor injuries, but the non-seat belted occupants were all ejected from the car and killed.
Can a Seat Belt Injury Be Part of My Damages Claim?
If you are in a car accident and suffer additional injuries from the seat belt, you can make those injuries part of your claim against the other driver, if the other driver is at fault.
A driver who is deemed to be at fault for a car accident is liable to all of those injured in the car accident for any and all injuries that were ultimately caused by the accident. The fact that it might have been the seat belt that caused you additional injury does not excuse the other driver from liability. The seat belt only caused the injury because the collision caused the seat belt to lock up and protect you from additional injury. If there had been no collision, the seat belt would not have locked up. The seat belt only locked up because of the other driver’s negligence.
How to Explain a Seat Belt Injury to the Doctor
Doctors are familiar with seat belt injuries. They will almost always ask you if you were wearing a seat belt. If you say yes, they will probably know immediately which of your injuries were specifically caused by the seat belt. You will not need to tell them which injuries you think came from the seat belt.