Check for “Seatbelt Syndrome” After Any Crash
After a car accident, you may be upset, in pain, and maybe even a little disoriented. An impact can cause mild to severe head trauma, which can leave victims confused and shaky. But in some cases, these feelings are masking serious internal injuries the victim has suffered from his or her seatbelt—also known as “seatbelt syndrome.”
However, even if your seatbelt caused an injury during a vehicle accident, it likely prevented a worse outcome. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted nearly 30% of all vehicle fatalities involve a passenger being ejected from the vehicle. Your seatbelt is your best protection from being ejected during a violent crash, so never forget it!
Signs of a Seatbelt-Related Injury
If the seatbelt left abrasions, red marks, or bruises on your skin, you should seek immediate medical attention. These may not appear at once, so keep a close eye on yourself in the hours and days following the crash. In addition, abdominal pain or tenderness, neck pain, difficulty breathing, and weakness are all potential signs of injuries caused by a seatbelt, and are reasons to get medical attention right away.
Types of Injuries Specific to a Seatbelt
The abdomen has very little protection from the force of your body slamming against a seatbelt. For this reason, injuries to internal organs are possible in a violent crash. Tears, ruptures, and perforations within the abdomen are all common injuries caused by the lap portion of a seatbelt. Injuries to the intestines, kidneys, and stomach can be masked by shock, but will become more painful and can be life-threatening if the victim does not receive medical care quickly.
The chest and torso are also prone to injuries from the shoulder section of the seatbelt. This can include damage to the bone and soft tissue of the shoulders, back, and collarbone as well as blunt force trauma to the lungs and heart.
One of the most serious things a seatbelt can damage is the vascular system. The thrashing motion of the impact and the sudden stop from the seatbelt locking mechanism can cause the aorta to tear. Any damage to the largest artery in the body can kill quickly, and the victim will require emergency open-heart repair or endovascular surgery.
After any collision in New Jersey, it’s just a good idea to seek medical attention immediately. Not only is this an important step in protecting your own health, but it also documents your injuries. This information can become important later on, if you file a claim against the person responsible for causing the accident.
What If the Collision Is Your Fault?
All drivers need to know that New Jersey is a no-fault state regarding auto insurance. This means medical coverage for injuries from any car accident, including seatbelt syndrome, will be paid by your own insurance company first, regardless of who was at fault. With “basic” personal injury protection (PIP), you get $15,000 of medical coverage per person, per accident. This means you should go get the medical care you need first, and worry about fault later.
What’s the Safest Way to Wear a Seatbelt?
In New Jersey, all occupants of a vehicle are required by law to wear a seatbelt. Seatbelts should be worn properly to reduce the potential for seatbelt syndrome. The lower portion of the seatbelt should be low and tight across the upper portion of the hips. It should never be placed across the soft lower portion of the belly. The shoulder strap should fit snuggly across the chest and should be nowhere near the neck or face. If the belt is worn under the arm, it greatly reduces the seatbelt’s ability to restrain the upper body in the event of an accident.
Nothing is perfect, and the benefits of a seatbelt certainly outweigh its potential for harm—but you should definitely keep these risk factors in mind and be extra-careful after a crash.
The Best Thing to Do Is to Talk to a Lawyer
If you have been injured by a seatbelt and are unsure of your rights to compensation, contact Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., at (609) 240-0040. Our New Jersey auto accident lawyers can answer your questions and help you to decide the best way to move forward with your case. Let us put our 25 years of experience to work for you while you focus on moving past the trauma of your vehicle accident.
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