Without any doubt, seat belts do save lives – close to 15,000 of them every year. Just being properly “buckled up” in the front seat of a car can reduce the chances that you’ll be killed by 45%, and it reduces the risk of a serious injury by half.
However, seat belts can also cause injuries, especially when they’re not worn correctly. Something known as “seat belt syndrome” can cause wounds that are much more serious than you might initially think.
What are the consequences of seat belt syndrome?
Seat belt syndrome is caused by nothing more than simple physics: When a car is in an accident, the force of the crash and the sudden stop propels the occupants of that vehicle against their seat belts. The seat belt then contracts, tightening sharply against the wearer’s midsection and chest.
Often, the survivors of these kinds of crashes think that they’re lucky enough to walk away with nothing more serious than some bad bruises, but those bruises can be hiding:
- Fractured ribs or a broken sternum, which can also lead to internal injuries, like punctured lungs
- Spinal injuries, including fractures, herniated discs and nerve damage
- Damage to the heart muscle, including bruises, ruptures or damage to the valves
- Damage to other internal organs, including the kidney, spleen and large intestine
Internal injuries compound over time, especially when a damaged area starts hemorrhaging blood and blood begins to pool inside the abdominal area. This can lead to symptoms that get worse over the hours and days following a wreck.
You should be on the alert for pain in your chest or stomach that seems to grow worse over time, nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling or bloating, diarrhea, weakness in your lower limbs and fevers. All of those are signs that you need emergency medical attention.
If you’ve been seriously hurt in a wreck or your loved one was killed due to seat belt syndrome or other injuries, you have every right to seek compensation. It can take experienced legal guidance to protect your rights and your family’s future.