Seat belts are designed with your protection in mind, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do a certain degree of damage during a serious car accident. The alternative to wearing a seat belt is, of course, much worse than not wearing one at all. However, the force of a car accident can cause seat belt-related injuries, otherwise known as seat belt syndrome. The good news is that you can seek compensation from seat belt syndrome injuries in your motor vehicle accident case.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle crash, the Michigan car accident lawyers at Lipton Law are here for you. Our talented personal injury team has extensive experience fighting on behalf of injured car accident victims. We have fought for compensation for clients with seat belt injuries, internal injuries, and other forms of seat belt injury. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call our Michigan personal injury attorneys at 248-557-1688 today.
Michigan Seat Belt Laws
In the state of Michigan, law enforcement officers have the legal right to pull over and administer a ticket to anyone who is not wearing a seat belt. Passengers from ages 8 to 15 must wear seat belts or lap belts no matter where they are seated in the vehicle. Additionally, all drivers and front-seat passengers must be buckled up. Michigan also has specific car seat laws that govern when a child needs a car seat or booster seat while in a vehicle.
Have You Heard of the Term Seat Belt Syndrome?
If you’ve ever been in a car accident in which your seat belt or lap belt left bruises or skin abrasions on your body, you may be familiar with the term “seat belt syndrome.” Other terms include seat belt sign, seat belt marks, and seat belt injuries. Put simply, seat belt syndrome occurs when seat belt use causes injuries to the person wearing it.
Although wearing a seatbelt is always preferable to not wearing one, the blunt force trauma one can experience during motor vehicle crashes has enough force to cause injuries with the seat belt itself. It restrains drivers and passengers to prevent them from colliding with the car’s interior or from being ejected from the vehicle. However, the rapid back and forth movement of the body can lead to a safety belt causing mild or severe injuries.
What Exactly Is Seat Belt Syndrome?
According to the National Institutes of Health, seat belt syndrome is actually a group of injuries associated with seat belt usage. In other words, they are injuries that occur during an auto accident. The seat belt itself is what causes the injury, but the car crash is what sets everything in motion.
What Causes Seat Belt Injuries?
The technical cause of seat belt syndrome is a little more complicated than it might seem. When a car accident occurs, the safety belt activates. Upon activation, the pressure and force exerted by the seat belt can put immense compression on the abdominal wall, the internal organs, and other soft tissues. It can even cause damage to the spinal cord.
Types of Seat Belt Injuries
Many different specific injuries can result from seat belt syndrome. Many of the internal organs can suffer damage, as well as the skin and the back. Below, we outline some of the most common injuries that seat belts can cause in the event of an accident.
- Internal organ damage
- Abdominal injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Intestinal injuries
- Vascular injuries
- Visceral injuries
- Bowel perforation
- Severe bruises
- Bruising of the ribs
- Stomach pain
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Spinal cord injuries
It is extremely important to report any symptoms you feel to your doctor after the accident. Missed intestinal injuries or other abdominal injuries could severely impact one’s health if not promptly treated. We strongly recommend seeing a doctor after your car accident, even if you don’t feel any symptoms right away. The adrenaline from the crash could initially cover up the symptoms of an internal injury, leading one to believe they are unharmed.
How Are Seat Belt Injuries Treated?
This largely depends on the specific injuries one suffers in an accident. One can suffer a wide range of both mild and serious injuries from seat belts. Some seemingly minor injuries can turn into fatal injuries without proper treatment. Below, we include the potential treatments that a doctor may recommend after a full medical evaluation.
- RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
- Physical therapy
- Surgery for fractured bones
- Sciatica treatment
- Bulging disc repair
- Visits with a pain management doctor
- Other treatments for other internal injuries
Car accidents are bad enough when you’re not injured in them. Accidents that result in injuries can be even worse, as they can result in medical bills that quickly pile up. This is when filing a personal injury claim makes the most sense, as you can have the at-fault driver be held responsible for your injuries and medical expenses.
Is Seatbelt Syndrome Common?
Injuries from seat belts are not as uncommon as one might think. Up to 30% of victims in car accidents will have some form of seat belt sign or injury. This could be in the form of damage to internal organs, an abdominal injury, blunt trauma to the body, or another severe injury. Part of the reason for this relatively high percentage is that most people are very consistent about wearing a seat belt or lap belt. In fact, all but one state (New Hampshire) requires front-seat passengers to wear seat belts.
Symptoms of Seat Belt Syndrome
After an accident, it is incredibly important to undergo a physical examination by a doctor, even if you don’t feel any pain or symptoms. Regardless of whether or not you have symptoms, we recommend that you seek medical attention as soon as possible after an accident. Having a doctor diagnose injuries sooner rather than later is essential. This will help connect your injuries more closely with the crash that caused them.
If you do suffer from seat belt syndrome, these are the symptoms to look out for.
- Abdominal pain
- Skin abrasions
- Skin discoloration
- Muscle strains
- Weakness or dizziness
- Leg weakness
- Bloody urine or bloody stools
- Constipation or bleeding
- Changes in bowel movements or urination
- Coughing or vomiting blood
- Having difficulty breathing
You may experience symptoms other than those listed above if you have a seat belt injury. Keep in mind that an early diagnosis is crucial in preventing a minor injury from becoming life-threatening.
Can You Sue for Seat Belt Syndrome?
Absolutely. However, you must first take advantage of no-fault benefits. If the insurance company refuses to pay, or if your no-fault benefits don’t cover all your accident-related expenses, you can sue for the remaining damages you suffered. You can even sue the responsible driver for pain and suffering if applicable. We recommend speaking with a seasoned personal injury attorney to determine how much compensation your case is worth.
What About No-Fault Benefits?
You can claim no-fault benefits in Michigan if you suffer from seat belt syndrome. You’ll need to file an application for no-fault benefits within one year of the accident to recover compensation. In general, no-fault benefits will come from the responsible auto insurance company, and they will cover your lost wages and medical expenses.
How Long Can Seat Belt Syndrome Last?
This largely depends on the severity of your injuries. Life-threatening injuries will generally involve a longer recovery period than simple bruising. Many people only need minimal downtime and recovery after their seat belt injury, while others may never recover. For example, let’s say the car accident was particularly serious, and you suffered damage to your lower spine. You may now have back pain and other serious problems for the rest of your life, all from one accident. This is why consulting with an attorney after a collision is so important.
Contact a Michigan Car Accident Lawyer Today
Seat belt syndrome may affect you for the rest of your life, or it may only affect you for a few weeks. Regardless, you deserve full and fair compensation for the pain and suffering you endured, as well as the mounting medical bills and lost wages. The car accident lawyers at Lipton Law are here to give you the tools you need to fight for that compensation. While you focus on your recovery, we’ll focus on the paperwork and heavy lifting in court. To schedule your free consultation with us, please call our Southfield personal injury office at 248-557-1688 today.