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Seatbelt Injuries

A woman dressed in casual gray clothing fastening her seatbelt.

Seatbelts save lives. In fact, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) estimates that six out of ten car accident fatalities are because the person was not wearing their seatbelt. A seatbelt is standard safety equipment in all vehicles and can make a difference in whether you walk away from a car accident or not. However, the impact in a collision can tighten the seatbelt against your body, causing potentially serious seatbelt injuries. If you have suffered seatbelt injuries in a car accident in Jefferson City, you could be eligible for compensation from the at-fault driver for your medical care and other losses. You may want to contact an experienced car accident attorney with Steelman Gaunt Crowley at (573) 341-8336 for a free consultation.

What Is Seat Belt Syndrome?

According to a study published in the Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock and available at the National Library of Medicine, seatbelt syndrome is the name for the collection of common seatbelt injuries that car accident victims suffer when violently forced into the seatbelt. Injuries range from bruising or minor lacerations to serious internal abdominal organ damage or fractured vertebrae.

The Three-Point Seatbelt System

The three-point seatbelt in a car straps the person’s torso to the car seat, resting on their shoulder, chest, and across the lower abdomen. The seatbelt is designed to keep the body in place in a wreck instead of going through the windshield or being ejected from the vehicle.

How Seatbelts Cause Injuries

In a wreck, the seatbelt transfers the force of the impact to the body. Although a properly worn seatbelt can prevent some of the most dangerous results of impact during a car accident, such as being thrown through a windshield, the three anchor points of the seatbelt can themselves become sites of blunt force trauma. If the collision happens at a high rate of speed, or if the vehicle is in a head-on collision, occupants may even experience internal organ damage.

What Are the Three Injuries That Make Up seatbelt Syndrome?

The points of contact the seatbelt makes with the body fall into three distinct types of injuries These types of injuries can occur individually or together. 

Chest and Shoulder Injury

If an adult individual is wearing the seatbelt properly, then in a crash the direct point of impact will be on their breastbone and chest or ribs. The force of impact may break the individual’s collarbone or ribs, and in some cases may cause damage to the organs the breastbone and ribs protect, such as by puncturing a lung or damaging the spleen, liver, or heart. If the first or second ribs are fractured in the impact, the broken ribs could pierce the carotid and subclavian blood vessels, which, if damaged, can cause serious internal bleeding.

Intra-Abdominal Organ Damage

Although the breastbone and ribs protect the organs in the chest, the abdominal organs are not protected by the human skeletal structure in the same way. This includes the stomach, lower part of the liver, intestines, and kidneys. The force of the impact may cause tearing in the intestines, which, in turn, can quickly cause sepsis. The person may also have a seromuscular tear or a ruptured bowel.

Musculoskeletal Structure Injuries and Bone Fractures

According to an article published by the American Journal of Roentgenology in 2006, chance fractures are skeletal injuries that happen when the force of the seatbelt causes spinal flexion, or over-extension, of the spine towards the abdomen, followed by spinal extension. Essentially, the spine makes a whip-like movement that overextends this delicate structure. This causes vertebral fractures, bruising to the spine, and soft-tissue injuries like torn muscles and over-stretched ligaments and tendons.

Seatbelt Injury Symptoms

Seeking prompt medical attention after a crash is essential to explore possible internal injuries or fractured bones. If an individual has trouble breathing, their abdomen is swollen, or they are having trouble walking or moving their back after a crash, they should immediately see a doctor. 

seatbelt trauma leaves characteristic bruising across the abdomen and one side of the chest where the belt contacted the body. If someone notices bruising in a “seatbelt” pattern, there is a good chance they also have some internal injuries. This seatbelt bruise may take up to a full day to present, which is why immediate medical attention is so crucial following a collision. Delaying seeking medical attention until you notice a seatbelt bruise leaves opportunity for the internal damage to worsen. Prompt treatment, on the other hand, gives a person the best chance of fully recovering from internal bleeding, internal organ damage, or a punctured lung.

How Long Do seatbelt Injuries Last?

Car accident victims can expect the bruising from a seatbelt injury to fade within a week or so unless they have severe contusions (deep bruising in the muscles) and the soreness from the bruising to last several days. Other seatbelt injuries can take much longer to heal.

If the victim of a car accident has broken or cracked vertebrae or a cracked rib, bone tissue may take six to eight weeks to heal. The individual could be on bed rest or need to wear a brace to ensure proper healing. Internal organ damage often requires surgery to repair, so they may be in the hospital recovering for a few days, then home for more recovery.

Can I Receive Compensation for a Seatbelt Injury?

If an individual sustained seatbelt injuries in a car accident they did not cause, they may want to work with a knowledgeable car accident attorney from Steelman Gaunt Crowley to pursue a settlement against the at-fault driver. Seatbelt injuries can cause life-threatening, and recovery is not guaranteed. A car accident victim’s medical costs could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars and should be considered when attempting to negotiate a car accident settlement.

If the person requires surgery to repair internal organs or spinal cord damage because of the spinal flexion of a seatbelt injury, they could be out of work for quite some time. They may be able to seek compensation for missed wages from work and loss of earning potential if their injuries keep them from doing the same job they had before the wreck. Finally, car accident victims can seek compensation for pain and suffering, too. Seatbelt injuries are painful, and victims of these injuries may have a compromised quality of life since their pain may make it harder to engage in activities they enjoy or care for their families.

Experienced Jefferson City, MO, Car Accident Lawyers Fight for Your Rights

Have you been involved in a car accident in Mid-Missouri? Are you having trouble working or caring for your family due to seatbelt injuries from a collision? If you are considering a lawsuit to pursue compensation for your car accident injuries, consider contacting one of the seasoned attorneys with Steelman Gaunt Crowley at (573) 341-8336 for a free consultation.