All drivers and passengers should wear seat belts at all times in Colorado. Seat belts are a critical safety device that prevents catastrophic injuries or even death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 15,000 people survive otherwise fatal car accidents due to wearing a seatbelt each year. Although seat belts prevent fatal injuries, they can also cause bodily injuries. Car accident victims often suffer certain types of injuries caused by seat belts. Although it is better to survive a car accident with some injuries, it is also important to understand how your seat belt can be a factor in causing your injuries.
What injuries can a seat belt cause?
Incorrect seat belt use increases the risk of injury in a car accident, but even wearing one properly may not prevent injuries. The pressure of the body pushing against the belt in a crash could cause an injury where the seat belt touches the passenger. In a violent collision, the belt can become rigid and impact the torso and other parts of the body. Seat belts can cause many types of injuries, including:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Abrasions and bruising
- Chest, rib and sternum injuries
- Lung injuries
- Damage or movement to breast implants
- Collar bone fractures
- Abdominal injuries to the abdominal wall or internal organs
- Back and shoulder injuries
- Nerve damage
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
Seat belt injuries can be severe or even fatal. A serious spinal cord injury, for example, could result in the victim permanently losing function and feeling below the point of injury (paraplegia or tetraplegia). Internal organ damage caused by a seat belt could be fatal. If you were seriously injured as a result of a seat belt, you may be entitled to compensation from the seat belt manufacturer or another party. If you lost a loved one in an accident due to a seat belt injury, you may have a wrongful death claim for your family’s loss.
Sometimes seat belt injuries are classified or described by less specific terms like seat belt syndrome or seat belt entrapment. These terms can refer to multiple injuries caused by the same seat belt functions.
Seat belt syndrome
There are several types of seat belt injuries that can occur. One common type is called “seat belt syndrome,” which refers to injuries sustained from the seat belt itself. These injuries can range from minor abrasions and bruises to more serious injuries such as fractures or internal organ damage. Seat belt syndrome can be caused by a number of factors, including improper seat belt use, faulty seat belts, or a seat belt that is too tight or too loose.
Seat belt entrapment
Another type of seat belt injury is called “seat belt entrapment.” This occurs when an occupant is trapped in their seat belt and cannot escape from the vehicle in the event of a fire or other emergency. Seat belt entrapment can be caused by a variety of factors, including a seat belt that is stuck or damaged, or a seat belt that is not properly secured or adjusted.
Can seat belts cause whiplash?
Seat belts can also cause or contribute to other types of injuries, such as neck and spine injuries. These types of injuries can be caused by the force of the seat belt against the body during a collision, or by the occupant’s head and neck being snapped forward or backward.
Can an accident cause a seat belt to break and cause injuries?
If a seat belt has a flaw, it may break in an accident. In an accident, a safe and effective seat belt will be able to withstand the weight and forces of the wearer pushing against it. However, if the belt has manufacturing, design, or marketing flaws, it may malfunction and cause more harm than good.
If a defective seat belt contributed to a crash victim’s personal injuries, the product manufacturer may be held liable. Before releasing seat belts to the public, the manufacturer is responsible for thoroughly testing them to ensure their effectiveness. It may be possible to sue the manufacturer or distributor for releasing a defective seat belt. Our product liability attorneys help clients pursue claims against manufacturers of defective products.
How can I prevent a seat belt injury in a car accident?
To prevent seat belt injuries, it is important to use seat belts properly at all times while driving or riding in a vehicle. This includes wearing the seat belt correctly, with the lap belt low and snug across the hips and the shoulder belt across the chest and shoulder. It is also important to adjust the seat belt to fit the occupant’s size and height, and to make sure that it is not too tight or too loose.
Although incorrect seat belt use can cause or aggravate injuries, unfortunately sometimes correct use can also cause seat belt injuries. The best protection from any seat belt injury is proper use of the seat belt and driving safely and defensively to avoid a car accident. Make sure to always follow Colorado seat belt laws.
Can You Get Compensation for Seat Belt Injuries?
As a victim of a car accident in Colorado, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries from one or more at-fault parties. The state’s fault-based insurance system allows you to file a claim for your losses with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
If the seat belt had a flaw that caused your injuries, you could file a claim against the manufacturer. Many car accident lawsuits involve multiple defendants. You might be able to hold both the other driver and the seat belt manufacturer responsible for your injuries. Filing a lawsuit for your seat belt injuries may result in compensation for past and future expenses.
What is the statute of limitations to recover money for a seat belt injury in Colorado?
Each state has its own statutes of limitations, or time limits for filing personal injury or product liability lawsuits. In Colorado, you generally have three years from the date of your car accident to file a seat belt claim. If you do not file a claim within the statute of limitations, you may be unable to recover any compensation for your injuries.
Keep in mind that specific facts and circumstances in your case may require you to act more quickly to protect your right to pursue money damages. You should talk to an experienced and knowledgeable car accident lawyer as quickly as possible after your injury to avoid missing a key deadline.
What should I do after a seat belt injury?
If you or a loved one has been injured by a seat belt, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some seat belt injuries may not be immediately apparent, and it is important to have any injuries properly diagnosed and treated. In some cases, seat belt injuries may require surgery or other medical procedures to fully heal.
If you believe that your seat belt injury was caused by a defective seat belt or a vehicle defect, you may have legal options. It is important to speak with an experienced Denver car accident attorney to explore your options and determine the best course of action.