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Seat belts prevent thousands of life-threatening injuries in car accidents each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017. However, in some car accidents, the seat belt itself can cause an injury. If this occurs, the victim can pursue financial compensation for the seat belt injury as part of a car accident settlement with the help of an experienced car accident attorney in Tampa.
What Is a Seat Belt Injury?
A seat belt injury, also known as seat belt syndrome, refers to harm caused by the impact of a victim’s body against the seat belt during a car accident. The gravitational forces exerted by the vehicle collision can propel an occupant’s body forward at high velocity. If the victim is wearing a seat belt, impacts will occur at the three points of contact: the chest, shoulder and pelvis. The impact between the occupant and seat belt will halt the forward motion, but may cause injuries in the process.
What Are Common Seat Belt Injuries?
Seat belt injuries are often caused by blunt force trauma. This is harm caused by an impact with a dull object or surface. When an occupant’s chest, shoulder, stomach, pelvis or other body parts come into contact with a seat belt at high velocity, it can result in bruising, blood clots, contusions or other soft-tissue injuries. In the most severe cases, seat belts can cause significant damage, such as bone fractures and internal injuries.
Common examples of seat belt injuries are:
- Abrasions and lacerations
- Chest and sternum injuries
- Broken ribs
- Bruising of the lung
- Clavicle injury
- Torn shoulder muscle
- Abdominal injury
- Intestinal injury
- Internal hemorrhaging
- Organ lacerations or damage
- Whiplash and neck injury
- Back or spinal cord injury
- Vertebral fracture
- Bruising of the heart, in rare cases
While more serious – and potentially fatal – injuries might have been prevented by a seat belt in a car crash, the impact with the belt itself could cause its own damage. In some cases, seat belt syndrome has caused catastrophic and debilitating injuries, including permanent organ damage and paralysis.
Symptoms of Seat Belt Injuries
After a car accident, the adrenaline generated by the crash may have pain-masking properties, making it more difficult to recognize if you’ve been injured. It may take hours or even days after the crash to realize that the seat belt gave you an injury. Potential symptoms of seat belt injuries include:
- Bruising, discoloration or seat belt marks
- Abdominal pain
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle soreness or stiffness
- Weakness in the legs
- Blood in urine or stool
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
The possibility of delayed injuries makes it important to always go to a hospital immediately after being involved in a car accident, even if you feel fine. A doctor can conduct a physical examination and run tests, such as MRIs and x-rays, to detect any injuries. If you are diagnosed with a seat belt injury, keep copies of your medical records.
Financial Compensation for Seat Belt Injuries in Florida
Florida is a no-fault car accident state. This means an injured victim has to file a claim against his or her own car insurance policy, regardless of fault for an accident. Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance pays for the policyholder’s medical bills. However, Florida has an injury threshold; in cases involving serious injuries such as amputations, permanent debilitation, broken bones or significant scarring, an accident victim can pursue a claim against another driver.
You may qualify for compensation for seat belt injuries after a car accident in Florida. Crash victims are permitted to include injuries caused by seat belts in their insurance claims. Any injuries suffered in the collision – including from safety devices such as seat belts and airbags – can qualify as bodily injuries for a car insurance claim. Unfortunately, a car insurance company may make it difficult for you to receive the compensation that you deserve. Get help with a seat belt injury claim at Vanguard Attorneys.