Car Accident Seat Belt Injury Lawyers in New York City

Seat belts save lives, resulting in decreased auto accident deaths after seat belts became a regular practice. But while they save lives, they can still cause injuries, especially to pregnant women and children. While seat belt injuries may not measure up to the fatal injuries sustained when people hit windshields or faced ejection, they still require consideration and compensation due to their effects. 

Medical professionals learned to recognize seat belt syndrome, which is the name given to the class of injuries caused by seat belts. While these injuries often lead to soft tissue conditions like bruising and whiplash, they can also escalate to chest cavity injuries that affect the heart and lungs. If you have chest pain after being in a car accident, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

The car crash attorneys at Raphaelson & Levine are knowledgeable and sensitive to clients seeking recovery from seat belt injuries. Since seat belts save so many lives, it is difficult for insurance adjusters to be sympathetic to these injuries and offer fair settlements. Securing compensation can be an uphill battle. But we are here for you and any challenges presented by your seat belt injury claim.

Call us today at (212) 268-3222 or complete our online form to schedule a free case review with an experience car accident seat belt injury lawyer at our firm. 

What is Seat Belt Syndrome? 

Seat belt syndrome refers to the group of injuries that arise from seatbelt use. It includes minor injuries like surface scrapes and bruises on the skin and more severe conditions like organ damage and lower back fractures. 

Children and pregnant women are more likely to show symptoms of seat belt syndrome. Minor fender benders may limit the syndrome to bruises, but catastrophic collisions often cause serious injuries. Many of these are potentially fatal injuries and can prove to be life-changing. 

Doctors generally diagnose seatbelt syndrome when they see midsection bruising, as that indicates more severe car accidents. From there, they assess patients for abdominal pain, loss of motion or paralysis, and abnormal bowel or bladder movements. If you show troubling symptoms, you may remain in the hospital for emergency treatment. 

Seatbelt Injuries in Car Accidents

Seatbelt injuries depend on the force of the collision and include:

  • Skin abrasions and lacerations, including the familiar “seatbelt sign” across the chest and neck from the shoulder strap
  • Bruises in the chest, check, and collarbone areas
  • Whiplash and neck strain/sprain
  • Abdominal wall injuries
  • Intra-abdominal injuries
  • Chest wall injuries, including sternum fractures
  • Bruised ribs
  • Internal injuries
  • Spine fractures (more common when cars contained only lap belts)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Sprains and strains in the lumbar spine 
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Collarbone contusion

Like whiplash, surface bruising, and other sprains and strains, soft tissue injuries are the least serious. However, they are frequently painful and reduce mobility. You may find it challenging to carry on with your routine activities or attend work. If pain continues or bruises and abrasions heal slowly, you may require additional medical attention. 

Serious injuries include fractures and blunt force trauma to internal organs. Many people sustained bruises only to discover aorta tears and other vascular injuries later. These injuries require lengthy recovery times and may result in disability. 

The following symptoms may indicate these severe conditions, including any organ damage:

  • Inability to control bladder or bowel
  • Blood in urine or stools
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Weakness, clammy skin, and dizzy spells (signs of shock and severe internal bleeding)
  • Leg weakness 
  • Painful breathing and chest pain 

You may experience these symptoms weeks or even years after a motor vehicle accident. So, if you notice any bruises or abrasions where your seatbelt sits, seek a thorough medical exam to detect these conditions before they require an ambulance ride and an emergency room visit. 

Types of Treatment for Seatbelt Injuries

Treatments for soft tissue seatbelt injuries include:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Rest 
  • Hot and cold compresses 
  • Pain medications

The goal for treating soft tissue injuries is to reduce pain and restore range of motion. A physical therapist will help you strengthen injured muscles and reduce inflammation. If you need help completing activities of daily living, occupational therapy addresses those matters so you can regain independence and complete your usual home and work tasks. Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications help you sleep, rest, and finish your physical therapy appointments as you recover. 

A chiropractor may also prove helpful with soft tissue injuries. Besides adjusting your spine to help with treatment, many chiropractors offer physical therapy services in their offices. 

If you face internal bleeding and organ damage, your medical care is much more extensive. Treatment for internal bleeding starts typically in the emergency room right after your accident. Once discovered, doctors administer fluids and blood transfusions to replace lost blood and keep you alive. If internal bleeding fails to stop, doctors may perform surgery to address underlying reasons for the bleeding. 

Once it is under control, you may go home and rest. It would be best if you had time to heal, which often means no work or vigorous activity. Follow-up medical appointments focus on repairing damage and stabilizing your body so you can return to normal functioning. If bleeding continues and doctors perform additional tests to find the cause and treat it. 

Without thorough medical attention, organ damage and internal bleeding may escalate to organ failure, coma, and death. Your best course of action is to receive treatment early, so report any symptoms to your doctor immediately. Insist on further tests if your symptoms never wane. 

If your seatbelt injury resulted in a spinal fracture, you might require surgery to fix vertebrae and realign the spine. Your recovery may be long and painful, so expect a long rest period with pain medication. Minor fractures, including compression fractures, may heal with rest and bracing. Once healed, you will likely follow through with soft tissue treatment, including physical therapy, to restore a healthy range of motion and reduce pain. 

How much is a Seatbelt Injury worth?

Seat belt-related injuries do not have an expected value. Setting a value on your seatbelt injury depends on the following factors:

  • The extent of the collision: Serious car-totaling accidents that deploy the airbag often produce higher settlements than a fender bender. Besides causing more injuries, they also result in property damage that takes time to address, causing additional life disruption. 
  • Your injuries: Fractures, internal bleeding, organ damage, and any emotional distress arising from those traumatic injuries attract higher dollar amounts. But if your soft tissue injury limits your ability to work or ends up being more severe than initially diagnosed, you can likely recover more money. 
  • Effects on quality of life: Pain and suffering can reduce your quality of life, mainly if you cannot perform your usual activities and hobbies. This standard applies to soft tissue injuries as well as fractures and internal bleeding. For example, if bruising and whiplash make it impossible to run that marathon or exhibit at a horse show, that can be considered when determining your damages. 
  • Lost wages or diminished earning capacity: Treatment for more severe injuries results in missed workdays. If your injuries result in a disability that keeps you from continuing your current career, you may also recover future lost wages. 

Traffic accidents and their circumstances are as diverse as the people who are involved in them. It is challenging to offer a hard estimate of the seat belt injury value or guarantee a settlement amount. You can review our settlement record and see what we accomplished for previous clients. These cases do not ensure any settlement amounts for you but gives you an idea of the possibilities. 

Car Accident Seat Belt Injuries and the Law

Generally, we argue that your seat belt injury resulted from the carelessness of the other driver. If that drive did not cause a car accident, you would not sustain a seatbelt injury, so it pins fault on them. 

But other legal theories may enter your case and affect your recovery. They may include:

  • Product liability. Poor seatbelt design may have something to do with your auto accident injury. For example, your car’s latches or tension detector may malfunction and cause the seatbelt to hold you in tighter than necessary. That can result in blunt force trauma to soft tissues and organs. Or the seatbelt tension detector may fail to activate and keep you in one place, thus causing your injuries. In these cases, the auto manufacturer or auto parts manufacturer may be other parties in your case or pursued in a separate product liability lawsuit. 
  • Contributory negligence: The defendant and their insurance company may also use your seat belt injury as a basis of making your injuries partly your fault. They may argue that you did not wear the seat belt correctly and that mistake was the primary cause of your injuries. If successful, that claim may reduce your compensation. 

Since seat belt injuries are a recently studied phenomenon and often questioned, you should not pursue these claims on your own. You need to hire a car accident attorney to handle these matters and build your case while you focus on recovering and feeling better. 

Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer Today

Seatbelts are designed to protect you from serious injuries during a car accident but if they fail, or aren't used properly, you can suffer severe and life-changing injuries.

You don't have to face the insurance companies alone. If you or a loved one has been hurt from a seatbelt injury, the New York City seatbelt injury lawyers at Raphaelson & Levine can help you understand your legal options and help you get back on your feet after a serious accident caused by someone else's negligence.

Call us at (212) 268-3222 or complete the free consultation form to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney today.

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