Bodily Injuries from Seatbelts in Motor Vehicle Collisions

There is no sense arguing with the statistics: safety belts have been saving countless lives since their introduction in passenger cars more than half a century ago. When used by the occupants of cars, pickup trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat occupants by about 45 percent. These simple devices also contribute to a 50-percent reduction in moderate-to-critical injuries as well.

It could certainly be said that, on the whole, many people who were wearing a safety belt during a bad traffic collision likely lived to file an injury claim against the negligent driver who caused his or her injuries rather than having the victim’s estate file a wrongful death claim on the deceased’s behalf. And those earlier figures were just for front-seat passengers. Seat belts have been shown to increase the odds of a rear-seat passenger surviving a crash in a passenger van or SUV by almost 75 percent. One sobering note here is that half of all fatal traffic accidents involve at least one passenger or driver who was not properly secured with a safety belt.

It is interesting to see how long it has taken the majority of the American public to embrace seatbelt use as a means to surviving more car and truck crashes. According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), safety belt use across the whole of the U.S. reached 85 percent back in 2010, up a mere percentage point from the previous year. And if one compares different regions of the country, the western portion of the U.S. shows the greatest overall seatbelt usage at an incredible 95 percent. As Baltimore auto accident lawyers, we at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, are happy to see more people being saved (more than 12,000 in 2009 alone) by such simple items as seatbelts.

As Maryland auto accident attorneys, we often see how people have to take the good with the bad. And while there are many good things to say about the benefits of safety belts in general, there are occasional situations where the occupant of a motor vehicle is badly injured due to those self-same seat belts. At the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, we understand how a poorly designed product or one that is manufactured incorrectly can cause more harm than good; the same can occasionally be said about seat belts and air bags.

In general, there are injuries that arise from seatbelt use, though it is important to ask if the alternative that of possibly being killed in a car wreck instead of injured is a better alternative. While the debate of such things is relative, consider that there are some chest and abdominal injuries that can be caused by wearing a safety belt during a high-speed car crash. As some experts in the medical field have pointed out, the increase in roadway accidents combined with a greater percentage of seatbelt use among the public has apparently led to an increase in safety belt injury rates.

Typically, these injuries include chest or abdominal abrasions in the area of contact with the seatbelt. Aside from the more common subcutaneous bruising on many patients, doctors around the country tend to notice sternal fractures as the most common seatbelt-related injury following a traffic accident. In fact, according to some sources, the incidence of sternal fractures has gone up by a factor of three since the beginning of widespread seatbelt use laws.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, Lebowitz & Mzhen have spoken to enough victims of car and truck collisions to know that the typical clinical manifestations of a safety belt injury include pain and/or tenderness over the area of the sternum. Less often, victims of severe automobile crashes who were wearing their seatbelt at the time of the impact can experience myocardial contusion.

Other potential injuries that medical personnel have found in relation to safety belt use at the time of a highway wreck are spinal trauma and rib fractures. There are instances, according to medical professionals, where an accident victim experiences intestinal injuries, which can sometimes include bowel injury and very occasionally leads to problems such as peritonitis and abdominal pain. In cases of sternal fracture, associated hollow organ injury is also suspected at the time of a car accident victim’s admission into the emergency room. It has been suggested that ER physicians should consider seatbelt-related injuries to include possible thoracic and abdominal injury.

Despite the occasional injury due to seatbelt use, and complementing the NHTSA studies that show a steady increase in safety belt use throughout the country, six out of seven Americans do say that they always wear a seatbelt when they travel in a car, truck, minivan or SUV. Back in 2008, nearly 90 percent of Marylanders told researchers that they “always” wore their safety belt when driving on public roads.

One of the more overt methods of encouraging safety belt use has been the increase in seatbelt use laws, making these laws a primary offense in many states, and instituting awareness campaigns such as the well-known "Click-it or Ticket" enforcement by local and state police in numerous states.

Regardless of the statistics, if someone feels that they have been the victim of a serious seatbelt-related injury, it may be important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer with a strong background in auto accident law. Considering all of the various ways in which a car or trucking-related crash can take place, it’s not surprising that injuries just as numerous can also result from an incident involving a negligent driver. Based on a number of factors, including one’s seating position, vehicle speed at the moment of impact, the portion of the victim’s vehicle that was hit, it is important to remember that many low-force automobile collisions can result in some of the most severe injuries; many of those injuries may only manifest themselves months or even years after the original crash.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident and are experiencing bruising, misaligned ribs and/or vertebrae in the spine, and strains and sprains throughout the musculature and ligaments in the back, you may wish to contact a qualified personal injury attorney. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we understand that many seatbelt injuries affect portions of the lower back and neck. To reduce the chances of being hurt by one’s seatbelt during a traffic accident, it is wise to be certain of the following:

  • Wear your seatbelt in the proper position
  • Pull the seat belt across your chest and snap it in place; it should be tight but not uncomfortable
  • Position the shoulder strap correctly so it secures the torso, but doesn’t 0contact the face or neck
  • Use proper seating posture when the car is in motion
  • DO NOT place the lap belt across your stomach; it belongs wrapped over the hip bones
  • Always wear both the lap belt as well as the shoulder harness correctly

The attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen are always prepared to build a strong legal case against the negligent person or persons who caused the accident that resulted in your injuries. Being ready to take a claim to trial usually makes for a strong case through and through. Our legal staff is ready to fight your right to maximum compensation under the law. With a strong injury case there is also a better chance that an out-of-court settlement may be reached before a case is actually heard in a courtroom.

If you or someone you love has been seriously hurt in an automobile, commercial truck or motorcycle wreck, we are prepared to lend our years of litigation expertise in representing your interests. Our traffic-related injury attorneys are happy to talk with you about your auto or trucking-related injury accident. Please give us a call at our toll-free number (800) 654-1949 or contact Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen by email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.