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  • Writer's pictureKeith Diaz

Seatbelt Injuries in a Car Accident

Updated: Sep 19

Personal injury attorneys help people seriously injured by the same seatbelts that likely saved their life in a car accident. Seat belts are recognized as one of the most effective safety mechanisms in vehicles.

Symbol of driver wearing seatbelt

According to the National Safety Counsel, seatbelts have saved countless lives and prevented innumerable injuries. Numerous studies have shown that seat belts save lives. When worn correctly, they prevent occupants from being ejected from the vehicle during a crash. Seat belts help keep drivers and passengers in their seats, ensuring that they are not thrown around inside the vehicle upon impact. This not only protects the individual wearing the seat belt but also prevents them from becoming a projectile that could harm others in the car.

"Currently, 34 states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws, and 15 states have secondary laws requiring adult front-seat occupants to use seat belts. Primary enforcement laws permit police officers to stop and cite motorists solely for not using a seat belt. In states with secondary enforcement, police can only enforce the law if the motorist has been pulled over for another violation first. As of 2019, New Hampshire is the only state without a seat belt law." -National Safety Counsel

However, while their benefits are substantial, seatbelts can cause injuries that require medical attention, keep people out of work, and cause medical bills to pile up.

Common Seatbelt Injuries in a Car Accident

While seatbelts are lifesaving, they can also cause significant injuries that are life-threatening, disabling, and put people in the intensive care unit.

Chest Injuries: The force of a collision can press the chest against the seat belt, leading to contusions, rib fractures, or internal injuries causing chest pain, tenderness, or difficulty breathing after the accident. The force of the seatbelt can even force the ribcage to push against the heart causing a cardiac contusion, also known as a bruised heart. The contusion can cause the heart to beat irregularly requiring a corrective procedure known as an ablation. Small catheters are threaded through the blood vessels to the heart. Electrodes at the tips of these catheters scar or destroy the tissue causing the irregular heart beat. Rib fractures and internal injuries like a bruised heart are serious injuries.

Abdominal Injuries: A seat belt can cause injury to your stomach or even internal organs such as the intestines, spleen, or liver. Symptoms might include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or signs of internal bleeding.

Diagram showing mechanism of seatbelt injury

Neck Injuries: The rapid deceleration in a collision can cause a “whiplash” effect, where the head and neck snap forward and then backward. This can lead to soft tissue injuries, neck strain, or even neck fractures in severe cases.

Lumbar Spine Injuries: The lower back can be affected by the sudden force of a crash. Compression fractures, disc herniations, or strains in the lumbar region can result from the restraint of the seat belt combined with the body's forward momentum.

Cuts and Bruises: The friction or pressure of the seat belt against the skin during a crash can lead to superficial injuries like abrasions or deeper lacerations. This is especially the case if the seat belt does not lie flat or gets twisted during the crash.

Compensatory Damages in a Car Accident

If you are injured by your seatbelt in a car accident (or any other injuries sustained in an accident), you can demand monetary compensation from the party who caused the accident. Money compensation, also called "compensatory damage" is purposed to make the injured person "whole" or restore them to the position they were in prior to the injury.

The following is a general overview of how money damages are assessed for seat belt injuries in car accidents:

Medical Bills: This is often the most significant portion of damages. It includes costs for:

Ambulance transportation

Emergency room visits

Photo of a past due medical bill



Physical therapy/Long-term Rehabilitation Services


Future medical care related to the injury

Lost Wages: If the injured party missed work or will miss work in the future due to the injuries, they can seek compensation for those lost wages.

Lost Earning Capacity: If the inured party has an injury that does not allow them to perform the job they had at the time of the accident, they can seek compensation for not being able to earn the wages they could earn if the accident did not happen.

Pain and Suffering: Pertains to the physical pain and emotional distress the injured person endured. Because it's more abstract than a hospital bill, it's calculated based on various factors, including the severity of the injury, the potential for ongoing challenges, and how the injury impacts one's quality of life.

Personal Injury Attorney for a Car Accident

It's important to note that assessing compensatory damages often requires legal expertise. If someone is seeking compensation for seat belt injuries or any other injuries after an accident, consulting with an attorney experienced in personal injury law is essential.

What is Personal Injury?

At its core, personal injury refers to the harm that an individual might suffer, not to their property, but to their body, mind, or emotions. This can be the result of various incidents ranging from car accidents, slip and fall incidents, dog bites, medical malpractice, to more severe issues like wrongful death or assaults.

The Role of a Personal Injury Attorney

A personal injury attorney is an advocate for victims who have been injured due to the actions or negligence of another party. Their primary role is to represent victims and ensure they receive fair compensation for the damages they've sustained. Compensation can cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related losses.

A good personal injury attorney evaluates the potential case to determine its merits. They consider the circumstances of the incident, the extent of the injuries, and any potential legal challenges.

Woman driver wearing her seatbelt

For a personal injury case to succeed, it's crucial to have evidence. This could be medical records, witness statements, photographs, police reports, or anything else relevant to the case. Your attorney should gather all necessary documentation and evidence for your case.

Often, a significant portion of a personal injury attorney's work is spent negotiating with insurance companies. These companies typically aim to minimize the payout. Your attorney should use their skill and evidence obtained on your behalf to ensure you receive a fair settlement.

If a fair settlement can't be reached, the case may go to court. Here, the attorney represents the injured person, presents the case in front of a jury, examines witnesses, and looks for a favorable judgment.

Once a settlement is agreed upon or a court verdict is reached, a personal injury attorney ensures that the injured person receives the compensation due.

If you've suffered an injury in New Hampshire due to someone else's negligence or wrongful actions, reach out to the dedicated personal injury lawyers Apis Law. Call us at 603-785-1013. Your first consultation is free, regardless of whether we proceed with your case. Our fees only apply if we successfully secure compensation for you. We are deeply committed to serving our clients' best interests, so contact us today for your no-obligation consultation.

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