Seatbelts, when worn properly, are intended to prevent car occupants from being flung violently against the dashboard, steering wheel, or windshield, significantly reducing risks of fatal injuries in a car crash.
In 2014, seatbelts reportedly saved almost 13,000 lives during car collisions. While body restraints during high-speed crashes can reduce one’s risk of getting killed due to blunt force trauma within a vehicle or by ejections, the belt’s restraining effect can still cause serious internal injuries to the abdomen, chest, and neck.
A scientific study on seat belt injuries published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that various types of seatbelt injuries in the U.S. were reported as seat belt usage increased.
How Seat Belt Injury Can Occur
When a car is involved in a crash, the vehicle makes a sudden stop that activates the restraining force of a seat belt used by the driver or passenger. In many cases, exceptionally tight restraints, improper placement of the restraint on the body, seat belt malfunction or a manufacturer defect can cause various types of injury such as:
- Abdominal injuries
- Chest injuries
- Internal bleeding
Seat Belt Syndrome
The most common type of injury associated with the use of seat belts is sustained at body parts that are directly underneath the webbing of the seatbelt restraint system. Lap belts that were initially released in the 1960s and 1970s were known to cause lumbar spine fractures and other abdominal injuries referred to as ‘seat belt syndrome’.
Lap and shoulder seat belt systems that were later developed have also been linked to injuries to the spine and contents of the abdomen.
Analyzing the Cause of Seat Belt Injuries
Seat belt injuries sustained in a car crash are generally complicated, requiring an analysis of many factors including:
- Seat design
- Restraint design features
- The injured occupant’s stature, weight, age, gender, and pre-existing health conditions
- Seat belt use and positioning before the impact
- Severity of the crash
Further complicating a case of seat belt injury is the possibility of a delayed manifestation or presentation of its symptoms. In some cases, crash victims who bore no outward signs of internal injuries were later found to have suffered internal abdominal injuries due to seat belt use.
Who Is Responsible for Seat Belt Injury?
A seat belt restraint system can cause serious injuries when its design or manufacturing process suffers from a flaw or a mistake such as a defective latch or defective tension detector. When the latch is defective, the seat belt may detach due to the force or impact in a crash. A defective tension detector may cause the belt to relax when slack is removed.
In situations where an injury is caused by a seat belt malfunction or flaw in the system’s design, the injured car occupant may be able to claim compensation against the seat belt manufacturer, retailer, distributor or supplier of the seat belt, or of the vehicle in which the defective restraint was installed.
Consult an Attorney for Seat Belt Injury
Product liability claims arising from seat belt injuries can be very challenging in terms of proving the defect and establishing a party’s liability for the injury. An experienced personal injury attorney can help by assessing the situation and providing legal advice on the next steps for pursuing a claim for compensation.
Product recalls involving specific types of vehicles can provide valuable information about known or reported seat belt defects. Just recently, a large manufacturer of pickup trucks announced that it was recalling a million vehicles after one death and two injuries were attributed to a software error that disables the seatbelt tensioner when the vehicles experience underbody impact. If you or a loved one has suffered seat belt injuries in a car crash or collision, talk to a lawyer immediately about your legal options.
Damages in Seat Belt Injury Lawsuit
The value of compensation that a party can claim for their seat belt injuries will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. In one case involving a popular sedan manufacturer, the jury awarded $55 million in damages to a plaintiff who became paralyzed after a car crash where it was alleged that the car manufacturer ignored the seat belt design defect that caused the plaintiff’s severe injuries. The total award covered the plaintiff’s future medical expenses, past and future lost earnings and earning capacity, past and future non-economic damages and loss of consortium.
In Las Vegas, Nevada personal injury lawyers at Bertoldo, Baker, Carter, Smith & Cullen have helped individuals and families recover more than $100 million in settlements and courtroom verdicts in a wide range of personal injury cases including seat belt injuries.
Our firm’s combined skill and experience can help you get the compensation you deserve and move forward with your life. Call us today at (702) 505-8115 to receive free legal advice from one of our dedicated personal injury attorneys.