Seat Belt Syndrome After a New Jersey Car Crash

Posted on behalf of James Lynch on April 4, 2024  in Car Accident News. Updated on April 10, 2024

A man putting his seat belt on in his car.

Seat belt syndrome is a blanket term that refers to a range of injuries that can be caused by a seat belt during a car crash. Some injuries are minor while others are severe. Despite the potential for these injuries, the benefits of wearing a seat belt outweigh these risks.

In this article, Lynch Law Firm, PC discusses what seat belt syndrome is and when crash victims may have serious or even life-threatening injuries.

If you need legal help after being injured in a car crash, contact our experienced New Jersey auto accident attorneys. We have been advocating for crash victims for decades, obtaining millions on their behalf. Call our office to discuss your situation. Our firm can help you determine if you have legal options.

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What Injuries Could be Caused by Seat Belt Syndrome?

Seat belts play a key role in preventing severe injuries during a collision. Unfortunately, they can also cause injuries, some of which are severe. It is still safer for drivers to buckle up, but it is important to understand the potential risk of an injury.

Some of these seat belt injuries may include:

Abdominal injuries

When your body jerks forward and your seat belt stops your forward momentum, the pressure from the seat belt can cause abdominal injuries. For example, you could suffer an internal organ injury, including an injury to your liver, kidneys and spleen.

Chest Injuries

These injuries can range from bruising to more severe injuries like fractured ribs or a broken sternum. The sternum is a bone located in the center of the chest that protects vital organs like the heart and lungs.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Your seat belt and the back of your seat can combine to put intense pressure on your spinal cord during a collision. You could suffer a fracture, dislocation or even paralysis.

Neck and Shoulder Injuries

Whiplash is a common example of a car crash neck injury. Your seat belt helps to stop your forward momentum, but this can also cause your head to jerk backward.

Your seat belt could also put pressure on your shoulder, such as if you are not wearing it properly. This could cause soft-tissue damage, nerve injuries or even a fracture, depending on the force of the collision.

Skin Abrasions and Lacerations

Cuts and bruises are less severe injuries. However, they could also be visible signs of a more severe internal injury. You should not take a risk with these kinds of injuries. Seek treatment right away.

What Are Signs That I Have Seat Belt Syndrome?

After a car crash, you should examine yourself and take note of how you feel. Even if days or weeks have passed, you should still be alert for new symptoms that may emerge.

Some symptoms of seat belt syndrome may include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Back pain or stiffness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Feeling weak in the legs
  • Blood in the stool
  • Changes in urination or bowel movements
  • Bruising or abrasions on the skin

If you experience any of these symptoms, visit a nearby emergency room as soon as possible.

Be sure to inform your doctor of all your symptoms, as this helps him or her make an accurate diagnosis. It also makes it easier to connect symptoms to the crash, as insurance companies often question whether an injury or symptoms are related to the accident.

How Do I Know if I May Have a Severe Injury?

You may not realize the severity of your injuries until you visit a doctor. However, symptoms like uncontrollable bleeding and loss of consciousness may indicate serious injuries.

Do not delay in seeking medical treatment. An early diagnosis may help facilitate a faster and more complete recovery.

Linking a Seat Belt Injury to a Crash

Victims can start to link their seat belt injuries to the collision by seeking medical care. Your medical records from doctor visits document your injuries, treatment and recovery. You also need to continue your medical care as directed by your doctor.

Skipping follow-up appointments or disobeying instructions about physical limitations can hurt your case. You need to make sure to report new symptoms as they arise, otherwise the insurance company may argue these symptoms are because of something unrelated to the crash.

Other types of evidence that can help link your injury to a crash include:

Photographic Evidence

Photos after a car crash can show the severity of visible injuries. Also, pictures of damage to both vehicles can help prove the incident was serious enough to injure those involved.

While you can help your case by taking pictures at the scene, this is not a necessity. You might not be able to do this because of your injuries or because you would be putting yourself in harm’s way.

Your lawyer can take pictures of both vehicles after the fact. However, it is critical that you contact a lawyer right away, as evidence can be altered or lost over time.

Expert Testimony

Medical experts have the detailed knowledge needed to explain how an injury occurred and why the crash likely caused it. Medical experts and accident reconstruction experts could provide an in-depth explanation of how factors like a direct impact and your position in the vehicle contributed to your injuries.

The Importance of Proper Seat Belt Use

Some drivers may not wear their seat belt properly because of discomfort, especially across the shoulder or chest. Other drivers may forget to buckle up if they are on the road for a short time.

However, drivers and all vehicle occupants should properly buckle up at all times to help prevent injuries and reduce the risk of being ejected from the vehicle.

Here are some important things to remember about proper seat belt use:

  • Ensure the top part of the seat belt lies snugly across your shoulder and chest. Avoid placing the seat belt under your arm or behind your back.
  • Wear the lap belt comfortably across your upper thighs or low on your hips, not across your stomach.
  • Maintain a comfortable amount of tension on your seat belt. A loose seat belt may not be able to protect you from a deploying airbag.

How Pregnant Women Should Wear Seat Belts

If you are pregnant, it is important to wear a seat belt that protects you and your unborn child. Pregnant women should take the same precautionary measures by keeping the seat belt in front of their chest and shoulder.

Properly Restraining Children

In New Jersey, children over eight years old or 57 inches in height must be secured by the same type of seat belt as an adult. Children who do not meet the age or height requirement have a different set of rules on being properly restrained:

  • Under the age of two: Children under the age of two and 30 pounds should be secured in a rear-facing seat.
  • Under the age of four: Children should transition into a forward-facing seat at the age of four or when they have outgrown a rear-facing seat.
  • Under the age of eight: If a child is under eight years old or under 57 inches tall, he or she should be put in a booster seat with a seat belt.

Need Legal Help After a Car Crash? Call Our Trusted Law Firm Today

At Lynch Law Firm, PC we have been helping injured victims recover compensation for their car crash damages for decades. Our knowledgeable attorneys have a proven history of success.

Call our law offices any time to find out if you have a legal option for recovering compensation. If you hire our firm to represent you, there are no upfront costs to pay.

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