Seatbelt Injuries: Types, Causes, and Prevention
Seatbelts can save lives. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that seatbelts saved the lives of 14,955 people in 2017 alone. In 2020, 51% of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing a seatbelt. However, as helpful as seatbelts can be, they can also cause injuries. Seatbelt injuries occur when a seatbelt restrains a passenger in a way that protects them and causes harm. Researchers have coined the phrase “seatbelt syndrome” to describe the pattern of injuries a seatbelt can cause in an accident. These injuries can be as simple as bruising or as severe as internal bleeding and damage to organs and vertebrae.
How Long Do Seatbelt Injuries Last?
The time that a seatbelt injury affects a car accident victim will vary based on the severity of the crash. If the impact was a sudden stop at a very high speed, the damages would likely be more severe than a slow-speed accident.
Even minor seatbelt injuries might include things like:
- Tenderness in the chest
- Pain or soreness while breathing
- Pain when moving arms or lying down
- Deep bruising that may not appear on the skin’s surface
Minor seatbelt injuries may resolve in a few days to a few weeks. However, more severe injuries could have residual effects for a lifetime. For example, damage to the spine could cause chronic back pain or result in long-lasting nerve damage.
Treating a Seatbelt Injury
If the seatbelt injury results in bruising and soreness, rest may be the best option for treatment. Bruised ribs, for example, can be extremely painful, but the only real treatment is simply to allow this area to heal. Controlling breathing patterns, using ice to keep swelling down, and resting are often considered some of the best options to address bruised ribs. Many other types of deep bruising will generally require the same treatment.
It is always a good idea to seek medical help after a car accident. If seatbelt injuries are suspected, professional medical treatment can help address any severe or life-threatening damages.
Symptoms of Seatbelt Syndrome
One of the most common symptoms of seatbelt injuries is tenderness in the chest area. Bruising will often arise across the chest, stomach, and neck. A diagonal line of bruises or scrapes may appear because of the hard contact with the seat belt. This type of bruising pattern could be a sign of something more serious, so it may be a good idea to get medical attention if these bruises appear. In addition, signs of severe seatbelt syndrome that likely warrant emergency medical attention include:
- Blood in the urine or stool
- Coughing up or vomiting blood
- Dizziness or weakness and pale, wet skin
- Painful or labored breathing
- Severe chest or back pain
Neck pain and stiffness can also be a sign of whiplash or another neck injury. While whiplash might not warrant emergency medical treatment, it is still a good idea to seek medical attention to ensure that there is no damage to the nerves or spinal cord.
Chest Pains and Seatbelt Syndrome
Chest pains are a common side effect of seatbelt syndrome. They can be relatively minor, caused by bruising and soreness. However, chest pains can also be a sign of something more serious that requires immediate medical care. Chest pains could be a symptom of any of the following:
- Muscle injuries
- Bone fractures
- Internal organ damage
- Deep bruising
- Bruised or broken ribs
Fractured bones, especially if left untreated, can lead to punctures in internal organs. The chest contains some of the most vital organs to the body’s functioning, including the heart and lungs. Internal organ damage can be fatal.
In addition, damage to the spine can be life-threatening or life-altering. Spinal cord damage can not only be extremely painful, but it can lead to a loss of mobility. Spinal damage may not always present as pain in the back. It can result in residual pain in the chest as well, which many people ignore or misconstrue as simple bruising. Remember, it is always a good idea to seek medical attention after a car accident, even if major injuries or damage is not apparent. Seemingly minor aches and pains can be a symptom of something much more serious.
A car accident attorney can help you understand your legal rights after an accident. They can assist with the legal aspects of your situation while you focus on your health and recovery from seatbelt injuries. Contact a car accident lawyer in your area to learn more about your options after a car accident.
Chris has successfully represented numerous clients in catastrophic personal injury, employment law matters, class action, consumer protection, business tort, and legislative matters involving multi-million-dollar damages.