Seatbelts save lives, but they can also cause injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered a seatbelt injury in an accident in Atlanta, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact Hasner Law, PC to discuss your case with our experienced Atlanta car accident attorneys. We can help you fight to not only get the money you deserve but maximize your recovery.
You probably have a ton of questions after your car accident. That’s why we offer a free initial case evaluation. Give our law office a call or reach out to us online to schedule yours today. We’ll review your case, explain your rights, and address any questions you might have.
How Do Seatbelts Work?
Modern seatbelts consist of a three-point harness. There’s a lap belt, which sits across the lap, and a torso belt, which rests on the shoulder, chest, and abdomen. When a vehicle is involved in a collision or comes to an abrupt stop, the force causes the belt to tighten. This tension holds the passenger in place, preventing them from being ejected or thrown around the vehicle.
How Do Seatbelts Cause Injuries?
Seatbelts don’t just hold passengers in place. Seatbelts also help to dissipate the energy of a collision. Specifically, seatbelts are designed to disperse this energy to some of the strongest parts of the body – including the clavicle, chest wall, and superior pelvis.
However, this only works when seatbelts are positioned and used properly. When a seatbelt doesn’t fit correctly or is misused, the energy is dispersed to other parts of the body. These other parts don’t tend to be as strong or durable. This is how seatbelts can cause some very serious injuries.
Common Causes of Seatbelt Injuries
Not everyone who wears a seatbelt will suffer a seatbelt injury. In fact, seatbelts are associated with a significant reduction in serious injury and death. However, there are times when seatbelts do some degree of harm. One or more of the following factors tend to be relevant when this is the case.
Children and Adult Seatbelts: There’s a reason that kids should sit in the rear of a vehicle and use a booster seat until they reach a certain age. Seatbelts are designed to keep adults safe, not children. When a child uses a seatbelt as-is, it just won’t fit properly. The torso belt will lay across the neck and the lap belt will lay across the abdomen. When an accident occurs, the belt will tighten across these soft areas of the body, where it can cause quite a bit of damage.
Age: As we get older, our bodies become more susceptible to injury. Bones become more brittle and likely to break. When a properly-positioned seatbelt tightens around the chest of an elderly person, the force can potentially cause fractures.
Prior Injury and Pre-Existing Conditions: If you suffer from underlying health conditions, such as arthritis or osteoporosis, or if you’ve suffered injuries to the chest or sternum in the past, you might be at a higher risk for suffering a seatbelt-related injury.
Improper Positioning: A seatbelt must be worn properly to protect you. That’s why the torso belt in many cars can be raised or lowered. If the torso belt sits too high, it can hurt the neck. If the torso belt is too low, it can hurt the abdomen.
Improper Use: There are people who just don’t like how a seatbelt feels. So, some tuck the torso belt under their arm. Others put the torso strap behind their back, altogether. When only the lap belt is used, the safety feature can’t function properly.
Defective Equipment: If the seatbelt itself is defective, passengers are more likely to suffer a seatbelt-related injury. When this is the case, the car or belt manufacturer could be liable for the resulting harm in a product liability case.
Types of Seatbelt Injuries
Seatbelts can cause a wide range of injuries. At Hasner Law, we’ve represented clients who, after being involved in an auto accident in Atlanta, suffered the following types of seatbelt injuries.
Fractured Ribs: When a seatbelt tightens, it puts a lot of pressure on the ribcage. When an accident is particularly violent, or when a passenger has underlying health conditions, the force of the restraint can cause the ribs to bruise or fracture.
Internal Bleeding and Injuries: There are two ways seatbelts can cause internal injuries. First, if ribs fracture, they can penetrate inward, causing significant damage to organs and tissue. Second, if a seatbelt is positioned improperly or doesn’t fit right, it can tighten around softer areas of the body, doing damage to the belly and neck.
Skin Abrasions: When a seatbelt tightens against the skin, it can rub and cause painful scrapes. If untreated, these abrasions can lead to infection and complications.
Shoulder Injuries: The torso belt can tighten around the shoulder, forcing the muscle and tendons to stretch unnaturally. This can cause the fibers to tear, cause inflammation, and limit mobility.
Disc Injuries: The force of a seatbelt tightening can potentially damage discs in the spine. Some crash victims experience herniated or bulging discs. When a disc is herniated or bulges out of its normal spot in the spinal column, it can press on the sciatic nerve, causing a lot of pain and discomfort.
Seatbelt Syndrome: Seatbelt syndrome refers to injuries where the passenger has (a) visible marks from the seatbelt on their body as well as (b) some type of internal fracture or organ damage. Many times, seatbelt syndrome is associated with intestinal trauma.
If you’ve suffered a seatbelt injury in a motor vehicle accident in Atlanta, make sure that you seek medical attention immediately. Then, be sure to reach out to our accomplished personal injury lawyers to discuss your legal options. You could be entitled to compensation if someone else contributed to your injury.
What Are the Symptoms of a Seatbelt Injury?
Some seatbelt injuries will be evident right away. However, other times, you might not realize that you’ve been injured until hours, days, or weeks after a collision. Some signs of seatbelt-related trauma include:
- Chest pain or discomfort, often made worse by movement
- Difficulty breathing or taking deep breaths
- Limited mobility in the shoulders and arms
- Abdominal pain and discomfort, and
- Bruising and swelling along the body where the seatbelt normally sits.
If you experience any symptoms, it is important to take a trip to the hospital or doctor. Prompt care can ensure that your injuries are diagnosed and treated properly. Failure to do this not only puts your health in jeopardy, but any potential claims for damages you might have.
Why Should I Wear A Seatbelt?
Seatbelt injuries can and do happen. However, the benefits of wearing a seatbelt really do outweigh the risks. Here are a few facts and statistics about seatbelt use.
- When a driver or front-seat passenger in a car wears a seatbelt, they reduce the risk of serious injury by 50 percent. The risk of death is reduced by 45 percent.
- Wearing a seatbelt in the front of a light truck reduces the risk of serious injury by 65 percent and reduces the risk of death by 60 percent.
- If you don’t wear a seatbelt, you’re 30 times more likely to be ejected from a car during an accident. 75 percent of ejected crash victims die.
- Men who don’t wear their seatbelt are more likely than women to die in a car accident.
- Not wearing a seatbelt at night is associate with a higher risk of death.
- If everyone wore their seatbelt, an estimated 4,000 lives could be saved every year.
Seatbelts can cause severe injuries if they’re not used properly. They can even cause moderately serious injuries when they are used correctly. However, the chances of suffering a serious head or brain injury are much, much lower when you’re buckled up. You’re also much less likely to suffer fatal injuries if you’re restrained at the time of the collision. It’s better to risk some moderate injuries than put your life on the line.
Who’s Liable For Seatbelt-Related Injuries After a Crash in Atlanta?
When you get into a car accident or trucking accident and suffer a seatbelt injury, anyone who caused that collision could potentially be on the hook for your costs and suffering. This could include:
- The driver of your car
- Other drivers on the road, bicyclists, or pedestrians
- The vehicle manufacturer
- The seatbelt manufacturer
- Employers of negligent parties, or
- Government agencies.
If you wear a seat belt improperly, that could affect your ability to recover compensation. So, always be sure to buckle up correctly. It won’t just keep you physically safe, it’ll also keep your financial recovery safe, too.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Atlanta Seatbelt Injury Lawyers
Seatbelt injuries can be costly and painful. Let the experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyers at Hasner Law help you fight to recover damages for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Please contact our law firm to arrange a free initial case assessment to get started and learn more.