I know someone who broke his collarbone while wearing a seat belt. Does this mean that seat belts aren’t truly safe?
Seat belts were developed as mass-market safety devices in cars in the 1960s. Within a decade, state governments (and eventually federal regulators) were ordering that they be installed in all new vehicles. For over half a century, seat belt safety has been examined by dozens of reputable associations and research groups.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association estimates that when seat belts are used properly, they save an average of 13,000 lives every year. The Centers for Disease Control maintains that wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.
Those are pretty good endorsements, but it gets better. Every study performed that has focused on seat belt safety has come to the same conclusion: proper vehicle restraint can help save lives in car accidents. However, these studies don’t say that this lifesaving device is cost-free. Although the ultimate safety goal for these restraints is preventing death, many of these studies fail to mention is that while seat belts are saving your life, they can also cause painful injuries—especially when the belt is used improperly or is defective.
Common Injuries Caused by Seat Belt Defects and Improper Use
You depend on your seat belt to protect you from harm in the event of a car crash, but in some situations, a belt that fails can put you in a worse position than if you weren’t wearing one. Belt defects and improper use are the main causes of belt-related injuries. such as…
- Broken collarbones. When your seat belt is positioned correctly, it should lay across your shoulder and collarbone to distribute the force of the accident over the stronger bones. However, when the belt is placed too far to the left or right, the force may be distributes unevenly, causing the clavicle to snap.
- Bruises. Okay, the force of a car accident will most likely cause impact bruises over the area where the belt was restraining you. However, these bruises can be much worse when the belt is out of position; the force will be distributed unevenly throughout the body and affect soft tissue. This is why it is important to make sure your belt is proper placed over the shoulder and collarbone as well as across the hip bones underneath your bellybutton.
- Scrapes and lacerations. When a seat belt fails to lock properly or becomes loose during an impact, it essentially becomes useless in keeping you restrained. As a result, you may fly forward, slam into the steering column, or even crash through the windshield, causing a variety of cuts and increasing your risk of internal injuries.
- Trapping injuries. If a seat belt’s locking mechanism malfunctions and traps you in the car after an accident you may wind up at risk for a variety of additional positional injuries. These injuries can include burns (if the car catches fire), crushing injuries (if the structure of the car has been compromised), and even drowning (if the accident caused your car to be pushed into water).
Fighting Against Defects
Car companies and manufacturers have an obligation to equip their vehicles with functional, non-defective seat belts. If they do not satisfy this responsibility, they are negligent. If you can show that this is what happened in your accident, you might be successful in bringing a suit against the manufacturer.
WARNING: It is recommended that you proceed with caution in such a case. Car companies have vast resources, and it can be tough to recover damages from them. It’s a good idea to seek the counsel of an experienced car accident attorney about how to go forward.
Feeling Secure After Your Accident
If you’ve been injured in a car crash and you believe that someone else—even a huge auto manufacturer—is responsible for your injuries, you might be able to seek damages and medical compensation. It doesn’t matter whether your seat belt broke your collarbone as a result of a negligent driver or your seat belt itself failed, leading to your injuries; if someone else was at fault, you don’t deserve to pay the consequences.
For more information about pursuing a personal injury claim, call attorney Steve Lee at 800-232-3711. We can help you better understand your rights while giving you the confidence and peace of mind you need to start feeling secure after your accident. Call now and see what we can do for you.