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Seat belts have been an important safety development for vehicles. Not only do they prevent ejection from the vehicle, but they also decrease the severity of impact during an accident. Suffice to say, these features save lives. Researchers say that vehicle occupants are 47 times more likely to die in a car accident if not wearing seat belts.

However, while seat belts are life-saving devices, they do not prevent all injuries and may even cause injuries themselves. The NHTSA estimates that over 15,000 seat belt injuries occur every year. Seat belt injuries can be caused or worsened by:

  • Accident severity
  • Exceptionally tight restraints
  • Safety belt malfunction
  • Improper placement
  • Manufacturer defect

Types of Seat Belt Injuries

During a car accident, seat belts restrain passengers’ bodies to keep them from going through the windows or crashing about in the cabin. However, an impact combined with a tight restraint can cause a number of injuries. Typically, seat belts cause bruising on the abdomen and chest, commonly referred to as “seat belt syndrome,” but injuries can worsen depending on the severity of an accident. 

Seat belts can cause serious injuries such as:

  • Abdominal Injuries – The tightening of a seat belt during an accident can cause bruising to the skin and muscles of the abdomen.
  • Shoulder Injuries – Seat belts can tear the tendons and muscle fibers in your shoulder.
  • Rib and Chest Injuries – The cross strap of a seat belt can cause bruising on your rib cage or even break your ribs in a severe accident.
  • Intestinal Injuries – Should an impact be hard enough, seat belts can even cause your internal organs to rupture.
  • Spinal Injuries – Seat belts can cause chance fractures on the spine, most commonly in the lumbar region.
  • Lacerations and burns – In a forceful impact, the thin but tough material of seat belts can cause cuts and burns to the skin.

How to Prevent Seat Belt Injuries

Your seat belt should be worn correctly at any time you ride in a vehicle to help prevent potential injuries. 

Here’s how the NHTSA suggests you wear your seat belt:

  • The shoulder belt should be placed across the middle of your chest and away from your neck
  • The lap belt should be placed firmly across your hips and below your stomach
  • Never place the shoulder strap behind your back or under your arm, especially merely out of a desire for comfort.
  • No belt should ever be uncomfortably tight or so loose as to allow the occupant to freely move about in the seat.

Defective Seat Belts Can Put You At Risk for Injury

Seat belt failure can occur for many different reasons, such as poor design, defective manufacturing, or improper installation. More specifically, some of the most common issues that cause seat belts to fail to include:

  • Sudden unlatching of the device during a crash
  • Use of weak material that tears during a collision
  • Electronic/sensor problems

If a car accident occurs and you’re wearing a seat belt, you should be able to trust that your safety belt will work properly. Manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that the seat belts installed in automobiles are safe and effective, but if your seat belt failed and caused you to get injured, you may be entitled to legal recourse.

However, defective seat belt claims are complicated. In these cases, it is crucial that the seat belt failure, and the extent to which it caused or exacerbated a victim’s injuries, is determined. This requires an in-depth investigation. Through a product liability claim, injured victims can seek compensation for medical bills and related expenses, lost current and future wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, long-term disability, and the wrongful death of a family member.

If you’ve been injured by a defective seat belt, contact the attorneys of DC Law. Our lawyers are experienced in fighting the manufacturers of defective products and will help you get full compensation.