Wearing a seat belt is considered common sense, and it is also the law. Buckling the seatbelt is something most people do upon entering the vehicle, trusting that it will keep you safe in case you get into an accident. While the seat belt can save you from severe injuries in a car accident, wearing one does not always guarantee that you will escape without an injury. When a seat belt is defective, it will not adequately protect you from injuries. Also, the seatbelt may in itself contribute to the injuries during a crash. If you get injured due to seat belt failure, you have a right to claim financial compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. When filing a lawsuit, the guidance of an attorney from The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm in California will be of great help in your case.
Overview of Seat Belt Failure
A seatbelt is an essential part of the vehicle, and wearing one is not only a basic rule but also the law. Seatbelts are aimed at protecting you from injuries in case of an accident. This is because having your body restrained helps in preventing severe injuries caused by blunt force. However, a seat belt can be defective and fail to perform the purpose for which it is designed. Sometimes a broken belt can play a role in causing your injuries during an accident. Seat belt accidents are more common than most people believe, and they can result in severe and fatal injuries.
There are two phases in a car crash. The first collision takes place when a car hits another object. The second collision occurs when the vehicle occupants collide with objects inside and outside the vehicle. The seatbelt is designed to hold your body and prevent injuries in the second collision. Most belts have a system to lock the seatbelt movement when it is triggered. Failure of any part of the seatbelt systems can result in severe injuries for an individual. If you are injured in a seatbelt accident, you can file a personal injury claim against the liable party. However, it is essential to establish how the injuries occurred so you can prove that the seatbelt failure caused your injuries. There are several ways in which the seatbelt system can fail and cause severe injuries in a crash, including:
- Inertial Unlatching
During a wreck or rollover crash, some seatbelt buckles can release and come open, landing you into the risk of injuries. The inertial unlatching occurs when force is applied at the back of the clasp. When this happens, you will be thrown forward as if your seatbelt is not fastened. When the belt unlatches, you will hit your head on the dashboard and other parts of the vehicle suffering immense injuries. Sometimes, you may be accused of not wearing a seatbelt, but it failed and unlatched. Proving such a defect in a personal injury claim can be difficult. Therefore, it is crucial to enlist the help of a personal injury attorney.
- Webbing Defects
Seatbelts are constructed to withstand immense pressure even when the vehicle gets into a rollover crash. Regardless of the force applied to it, the material of the seat belt is not supposed to rip. However, some manufacturers produce substandard belts with defective materials that rip apart with pressure. When a seatbelt cuts, it will put you at risk for injuries. Also, the damaged seat belt can in itself injure you.
- False Latching
Sometimes the seatbelt feels okay and adequately secured, but it might not be fully attached. If the belt is not completely secured, even a minor impact will cause the belt to unlatch and leave you unsecured. Some vehicles are manufactured with the latching problem, and you can get into an unexpected accident. If you can prove that the seatbelt failure resulted in poorly made belts, you can recover compensation for your injuries from the manufacturer. When there is a false latch the belt unlatches during the crash, the defendant can claim otherwise. Therefore, it is crucial to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
- Retractor Failure
During a car crash, the retractor of the seatbelt is supposed to lock and hold you in place. When the locking device fails, and the belt releases you, the outcome could be fatal. This is because you are likely to suffer an impact to your head and chest.
- Poorly-mounted Seat Belt Systems
Several systems ensure the proper functioning of the seatbelt. The most vital part of the belt is fixed on the seats. Therefore, seats have to be in good condition. If there is a defect or failure in this system, the belt will not adequately perform its intended function.
Proving Liability in a Seat Belt Failure Claim
When you file a personal injury claim after a seat belt failure injury, you will be required to show the party who was liable for the defective seatbelt. This makes it easier for you to recover compensation for your injuries from the responsible party. In most personal injury lawsuits, liability to the accident is shown by proving negligence. The critical elements in determining negligence are:
- Proving that the defendant owed you a duty of care - Duty of care is the responsibility to ensure that their actions do not put you at risk of injuries
- The defendant breached the duty of care - A person violates the duty of care towards you by acting recklessly and putting you in harm’s way
- The breach of duty caused your injuries - You need to prove that the actions of the defendant were a substantial contributing factor to your wounds before you receive compensation
In most cases, the seatbelt manufacturer will be held liable for seatbelt failure. Seat belt failure is not easily detected. If a defect manifests in a crash, you will suffer serious injuries. After the trauma of injuries, you will want to claim compensation for your injuries. The following are some ways you can prove that the seat belt manufacturer is liable for your damages are:
- Presenting torn or worn-out seat belts after the accident
- Presenting all faulty seat belts from the vehicle
- Passengers having no seat belts after the crash but they claim to have had them
Detecting Seat Belt Failure
If you are injured in a seatbelt failure accident, you have a case against the party liable for the defect. However, sometimes these parties can claim that there wasn’t a failure, but instead, you did not wear the seat belt. Detecting a seatbelt failure is not always an easy task. The effectiveness of your seatbelt will be evaluated depending on the nature of the accident and your injuries. The following are some indications that the belt failed and resulted in your injuries:
- You had a loose belt after the accident - This information can be revealed by witnesses who were at the scene when the accident occurred. Also, any photographs or videos taken at the accident scene can be significant evidence
- You were found without a seatbelt, but another vehicle occupant can vouch that you were wearing one before the accident
- You suffered severe injuries in a minor crash
- A front-seat occupant has injuries caused by the windshield, meaning that the seatbelt could not hold them back to the seat
- The seat belt was worn-out, ripped or webbed
- A significant difference in the injuries suffered by other vehicle occupants with the safety belts
- Having seat belt marks on your body - Sometimes a seatbelt will rip and cause injuries on your body, which can be evident.
Common Injuries in Seat Belt Failure
Although seatbelt failure is challenging to identify, the defect produces some of the most severe injuries after a crash. The severity of the injuries suffered in such an accident will heavily depend on the type of accident and nature of seat belt failure. Some of the most common injuries you are likely to suffer in a seatbelt failure case include:
During a car accident, the seatbelt is supposed to hold you in place to prevent you from hitting objects in the vehicle. When the safety-belt is defective, it cannot perform properly, and you will possibly be moved about by the force of the crash. There are different bone fractures you can suffer depending on the nature of the accident, including:
- Broken limbs - Failure of the seatbelt in a rollover accident can cause your arms to get stuck in tight spaces of the vehicle leading to injuries
- Facial bone fractures Seatbelt failure often results in an impact on your head, the dashboard, and the windshield. Depending on the severity of the impact, facial bone fractures could lead to brain damage
- Clavicle fractures - The clavicle is a fragile bone, is more susceptible to damage when your upper body hits a hard object
Although broken bones do not pose an immediate threat to your life, they take a long time to heal and can cause a significant amount of pain when treating.
A contusion, injury to tissues under the skin, is caused by a blunt force. However, the injury does not result in breakage of the skin. When you have a defective seatbelt in a crash, your body may get hit by all sorts of hard objects in the vehicle. When the impact is not too massive, the skin may not be broken, but you bleed from inside. This causes the blood to clot and forms dark spots on the affected area. Although most wounds are minor, a blunt injury to the head can cause a lump to the brain, which is a severe threat to your life. After an accident, it is crucial to seek medical attention to ensure such injuries are detected and treated.
Scrapes and Laceration
Scrapes are minor cuts and bruises on the skin, while lacerations are deeper wounds caused by sharp objects. Once the seat belt fails to function as expected, your body will be moved from one corner of the vehicle to another. Windows and other objects can break and cut your skin. Scrapes, cuts, and lacerations can result in severe infections when left untreated. Also, you are likely to be left with permanent scars and nerve damage. These complications may lead to costly medical expenses.
Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
Injuries to the spinal cord are one of the worst imaginable injuries in an accident. Seatbelt failure forces your body to hit hard objects, especially when the vehicle is at high speed. These injuries are both minor injuries to the vertebrae and the complete severing of the spinal cord. Such injuries can interrupt the messaging system between the brain and the body, and this will affect your movement. Also, damage to the spine can affect some vital internal organs like the bladder and reproductive system. In most cases, there is no cure for spinal cord injuries, and you may be forced to rely on other people to carry out tasks for you.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Traumatic brain injury is harmful to the brain, which disrupts normal function. The damage to your brain comes from the excessive force applied to your head during the crash. Traumatic brain injuries are common in severe accidents where your head hits the steering wheel. A minor accident can cause damage to the skull, but when too much pressure is applied to the skull, it can result in swelling and bleeding in the brain. TBI ranges from minor concussions to permanent damage to the brain. Damage to your brain will affect most body functions, which you have to live with for the rest of your life. When there is no visible trauma, brain injuries take long to manifest. It is crucial to seek immediate medical attention after the accident.
Internal Organ Damage
Sometimes the skin may not break after an injury, but the impact damages your internal organs. Injuries to your internal organs are difficult to detect but are some of the fatal injuries. Also, your internal organs may be caused by the penetration of sharp objects in the body during a crash.
Injuries resulting from seatbelt failure can cause a financial strain from the medical expenses. Also, some injuries may make it difficult for you to go back to work. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, you will have an opportunity to recover damages for the injuries you suffered.
Compensation Benefits in a Seatbelt Failure Claim
If you are injured after seatbelt failure in a crash, you can recover compensation for your injuries. A successful personal injury claim can see you get the following benefits:
If you suffer injuries after an accident, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible. This will help detect the injuries and treat them early on to avoid complications. Since you will get treatment before filing the personal injury claim, you will have to cover your medical bills. There are several ways in which you can pay medical bills after an accident in California. You have the option to pay with a medical cover, cash, or on a lien basis.
The most efficient way through which you can cover these bills is by the use of medical insurance coverage. This makes it easier for you to recover compensation since the medical practitioners cannot charge you more than the cover. If you do not have a medical cover, the government mandates medical care providers to give you a discount for the bills. Also, you may decide to pay the practitioner on a lien basis. However, it is crucial to understand that medical care providers who operate on a lien basis are paid with the proceedings of your lawsuit. If the medical bills exceed the amount you receive from the claim, you will have to pay the balance.
When you are receiving treatment for your injuries, it is essential to ensure that everything is documented. Also, the medical record should be kept safe since they are a crucial piece of evidence in the personal injury lawsuit. Sometimes the insurance provider of the defendant will want to access your medical records. This is to ensure that the injuries for which you were treated resulted from the accident. However, even if you had an injury that was worsened by the seat belt failure, you can still recover compensation.
With guidance from a personal injury attorney, you can get compensation for:
- Ambulance service bills
- Emergency room bills
- Consultation fees
- Laboratory testing and X-rays
- Prescription medications
Accidents that involve defective seat belt failure are often fatal. If you survive the accident, you are likely to suffer severe injuries such as brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. Some of these injuries will not only cost you a fortune to treat but also cause you to have extended stays in the hospital. During the time you are nursing your injuries, you may not be able to go back to work. Also, some injuries will affect your ability to work in the future. Lost wages are the amount of money you would be earning while you were nursing the wounds.
If you suffered injuries from seat belt failure during a car crash, you are entitled to compensation for lost wages. Lot wages can be in the form of monthly salary, bonuses, and commissions, income from self-employment as well as overtime pay. However, you will be required to prove lost wages by producing a lost wages letter from your employer.
If you cannot obtain the lost wages letter, you can prove lost wages by providing past pay stubs and your income tax documents. If you are self-employed, you can also use tax returns of previous months to show lost income from self-employment. There isn’t a clear way for calculating the lost wages, but the severity of your injuries will determine the amount of compensation you receive.
Lost Earning Capacity
Some injuries that result from seatbelt failure will leave you with a permanent or partial disability. Depending on the severity of your injuries, it may be difficult for you to return to work. Also, these injuries can affect your ability to do some jobs. Future lost earning capacity is the loss of your ability to work after the accident. Your injuries need not be permanent for you to receive compensation for future lost earning capacity.
If you suffer injuries after an incident of seat belt failure, you have two years to claim lost earning capacity in a personal injury claim. The following are some factors that will be put into considerations when determining lost earning capacity in California:
- Your age and life expectancy
- The state of your health before the accident
- The period your injuries are expected to last
- The number of years you need to work before retirement
- The nature and terms of your employment
Pain and Suffering
After an accident, you are likely to suffer both physical and psychological distress. Even when you are not physically injured, you are eligible for compensation for emotional suffering. There is no specific method through which pain and suffering can be calculated. Settlement may have to depend on testimony from a mental health and counseling expert. Therefore, it is crucial to have competent legal representation in your lawsuit.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Most people assume that putting on a seatbelt will automatically protect you from injuries during an accident. However, this is not always the case. Like other vehicle parts, the safety belt could be defective or fail when the vehicle is moving. If the safety belt fails during an accident, you likely suffer significant injuries. Sometimes the safety belt can also cause you injuries since it presses your body, making an impact from all directions harder. If you or your loved one suffer injuries from seat belt failure, you can file a lawsuit to claim compensation for your injuries. Detecting seatbelt failure is not always straightforward, and you would greatly benefit from some legal guidance. If you are residing at any location in California, you will require help from The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm. Contact us today at 619-625-8707 to discuss the details of your claim.