Can Seatbelts Cause Injuries After a Car Accident?

There's no doubt that seat belts save lives, but in rare cases they can also inflict injury during a car accident.

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?

The most common shoulder harness seat belt injuries are to the chest, ribs, and shoulder. Lap belts commonly cause bruising and other soft tissue injuries to the abdomen, and may even damage internal organs of the force of the impact is great enough.

Most often, seat belts cause injury because they lock up to keep the driver or passenger from moving forward during and after impact in a car accident. This is by design. If the seat belt did not lock up, or if it locked up more slowly or more gently, then it would not work as well and would not protect vehicle occupants against even more serious injury or death. Seat belts can cause injury in any type of collision, including rear end accidents, side impact, or head on crashes.

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 for the accident.

A driver who is deemed to be at fault for a car accident is liable for any and all injuries that were ultimately caused by the crash, and all corresponding medical treatment made necessary. 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 itself 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. That's the argument.

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, and your doctor will not differentiate your "seat belt injuries" from your "car accident injuries"; they'll be one and the same when it comes to your course of treatment and any resulting car accident claim you decide to make against the at-fault driver.  

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