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Seat belts have saved a lot of lives and mitigated untold serious injuries in the nearly 50 years they have been in use. When combined with air bags, the rates of injury and death drop even further. Without a seat belt in a car accident, you can be ejected and crushed during a rollover, or hit the windshield with enough force to go through it. In both situations, the fatality rate is high.
And yet, despite any number of improvements, seat belts can and do still cause injury to drivers and passengers. Here’s why: In an accident, the forces at play can be substantial. At 30 miles per hour, a 160-pound human can hit the seat belt with a force of 2.4 tons—that’s nearly 5,000 pounds upon impact. The impact force increases the faster your car is traveling. The higher the force of impact, the greater the chances of injury.
These forces can turn you and twist you against the very belts that are supposed to protect you and can injure you, even if you wear your seat belt correctly. The chances of harm multiply if you wear your belt incorrectly (such as moving it under your arm or placing it behind your back), or if the seat belt has a defect.
When it comes to seat belts, there are basically two varieties: the lap belt, or two-point restraint, and the shoulder belt, or three-point restraint. All new cars these days have only three-point restraints.
However, a number of older cars have only lap belts in the center back seats of larger vehicles, especially minivans and larger cars. Because children are small, they are often the ones buckled into the middle seats. Because of this fact, the results in an accident can be catastrophic: In one case, a four-year-old’s head was thrown forward, hitting the front-seat console and breaking her neck.
Before you think that lap belt injuries are a thing of the past, think again. Many, many older cars are still in use. Services that use buses and vans usually have only lap belts installed. And sometimes you can sustain lap belt injuries even if you are wearing a shoulder belt, especially if the belt is defective.
Lap belt injuries, caused by jackknifing over the belt upon impact, can be catastrophic and may include the following:
Three-point restraint injuries, however, can be just as serious, and generally happen to three areas of the body:
A number of more minor injuries to the upper body and arms, such as contusions and abrasions, can take place as well. In addition, head trauma can occur if you wear your seat belt incorrectly, or if your belt is defective.
If you have been in a serious car accident, even if you have received treatment, be aware that the following symptoms could mean you have sustained significant injury from your seat belt:
Like any other part of a car, seat belts can be defective and cause harm. The many recalls investigated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration over the years attests to this fact. Some examples of things that can go wrong include:
Often there is no way to know what went wrong unless the many elements of a crash are examined after the fact. Because claims involving defective products can be complicated, it is a good idea to have experienced legal assistance to guide you.
The Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an auto accident, whether because of a seat belt or other cause, it’s important to make sure that you understand your legal rights. Defective automotive cases require a thorough investigation by an experienced legal team to determine which individuals and companies should be named as defendants and which legal theories should be pursued. South Carolina law can be complex, and the deadline for filing a claim is already running, so contact us for help today by calling our toll-free number at 803-454-1200. You can also fill out our online contact form. Louthian Law Firm. On the case. Around the clock.