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Understanding Seat Belt Injuries: Causes & Preventions

Understanding Seat Belt Injuries: Causes & Preventions

Seat belts are necessary for the best chance of protecting passengers during accidents. They keep people in their seats, reduce injuries, and save lives. Occasionally, however, seat belts themselves can cause injuries. At Heiting & Irwin, our dedicated motor vehicle accident attorneys have worked tirelessly for more than 45 years to serve our clients’ needs, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for their clients. If you have suffered from seat belt injuries, please contact our office at (951) 682-6400 to learn how our experienced legal team may be able to assist you

What Are the Most Common Injuries That Seat Belts Can Prevent (or Cause)?

Many cases involve car accidents with injuries, even when passengers use a seat belt. Seat belts are designed to decrease the damage caused by accidents while driving. They can stop various common injuries, including:

  • Head and brain injuries
  • Facial injuries
  • Chest injuries
  • Abdominal injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Injuries to the extremities

When a crash happens, seat belts are meant to hold the body in place, reducing the risk of hitting hard surfaces like the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, or other objects inside the car. They also greatly reduce the risk that a driver or passenger will be thrown through a window or windshield. Seat belts can prevent heart, lung, liver, and spleen injuries. While seat belts are highly effective in reducing injuries, using them with other safety features like airbags and proper child restraints is crucial to achieve maximum protection.  Faulty seatbelts can result in ejection from the vehicle or serious injuries and even death. Seatbelts can also cause injuries such as severe bruising, internal bleeding or broken bones.

Rib and Chest Injuries

Rib fractures or chest wall bruising can occur in rare cases due to the force exerted by the seat belt across the chest, especially in high-impact collisions. While still preferable to the possibility of impacting against a dash or steering wheel, or being flung through glass, these injuries can be extremely painful and take some time to heal.

Soft Tissue Injuries

In a collision, sudden stopping or deceleration forces can cause soft tissue injuries like sprains and strains when wearing seat belts, especially in the shoulder and chest areas. Injuries of this type are often responsible for some of the soreness many people report experiencing after a car crash.

Submarining Injuries

During collisions, submarining occurs when the lower part of the body slides forward under the lap belt, potentially resulting in injuries to the abdomen, pelvis, and lower extremities. The severity of these injuries varies depending on the body parts involved.

Neck and Spine Injuries

While uncommon, seat belts may cause neck and spine injuries during a collision. These injuries are more likely to occur if the seat belt is not used correctly or if the person in the car has a pre-existing medical condition.

What Is a 3-point Seat Belt Injury?

The 3-point seat belt system is the standard for protecting vehicle occupants during collisions. This system consists of a lap and shoulder belt to secure individuals and minimize the risk of injury. One possible injury linked to the 3-point seat belt system is subclavian crush syndrome, also known as seat belt syndrome. This injury occurs when the diagonal shoulder belt portion of the seat belt puts pressure on the chest during a collision. The force applied can cause damage to blood vessels, nerves, and soft tissues, resulting in pain, bruising, and potentially even neurological symptoms in severe cases. Sometimes, a 3-point seat belt may also cause internal injuries during a collision, causing damage to organs in the chest or abdominal region, such as the liver, spleen, or intestines.

Other potential seat belt injuries include rib and sternum fractures, which can result from the diagonal portion of the seat belt transferring substantial force during a crash, especially if the seat belt is not worn correctly. These fractures are painful but uncommon. If you have suffered any of the outcomes of a seat belt injury, consider scheduling a consultation with Heiting & Irwin.

How Do Seat Belts Reduce Injuries?

Seat belts play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of vehicle occupants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce crash injuries. In a collision, seat belts can effectively restrain a vehicle’s occupants and minimize the risk of injuries. Additionally, seat belts work in tandem with other safety features to reduce the likelihood of secondary impacts in the vehicle. All passengers in a car must wear seat belts securely fastened to ensure maximum protection.

Find a California Car Accident Lawyer for Your Case

Seat belts are one of the most important safety features in vehicles. Despite their safety features, seat belt injuries can occur and cause significant harm to the occupants of the vehicle. Even so, if you were involved in a motor vehicle accident, and even if you were injured by a seat belt, contact our experienced car accident attorney’s at Heiting & Irwin. Schedule a consultation today by calling (951) 682-6400 or visit us on our website at

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