Safety belts are crucial for a passenger in a vehicle. Seatbelts should hold the person seated in the car in a secure position in case of an accident. After involvement in a car accident aggravated by seatbelt failure, you have the right to seek rightful compensation for the injury and loss caused. The payment aims to get you back to your healthy lifestyle as it was before the occurrence of the accident. A victim has a valid compensation claim if he or she genuinely believed that the seat belt in use was in good condition, and would secure him or her in case of an accident. Thus, a claimant has a lot to lose when a defect hinders the correct working of a safety belt. Losses range from the deterioration of the victim’s health to economic loss.
The San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm is made up of attorneys who specialize in helping clients receive compensation for any personal injury. We are made up of a team of lawyers who have vast experience in the field of compensatory law, as well as dealing with insurance claims that our clients can make. Therefore, we can offer professional legal advice as well as representation in court if your compensatory application advances into a lawsuit.
What is Seatbelt Failure?
Ideally, safety belts should have firm and high-quality machines that can withstand different passengers' weights to prevent them from any force. Their design developed over time, as manufacturers saw the need to increase their coverage for additional safety. The first seat belt design only secured the passenger’s body at the waist. While it was a good safety measure, the model of protection was not very useful because passengers could still lean forward and hit hard surfaces in the vehicle. Later on, the design improved to include a longer belt that covered the entire torso. The development in design promoted higher standards of car safety, as drivers and passengers in cars could rely on the extensive coverage when they were pushed forward after high impact car accidents.
Therefore, when these seatbelts fail to perform their function optimally, it is a considerable disadvantage on your part. For example, you may face severe injuries because your body is under an unexpected high force. The result of this kind of accident can be minor, on the one hand, or severe and fatal. The degree of severity of accidents caused by seat belt failure depends on the circumstances leading to the car accident, and the amount of force applied to the accident victim.
Due to the adverse effects caused by seat belt failure, the law takes wearing seatbelts very seriously, aiming to uphold high safety standards on the road. There are, therefore, some penalties issued to passengers who are not keen on wearing their seatbelts. For a first time offender, you could pay a $20 fine, while for subsequent offenses, you could pay a $50 fine.
The seatbelts should have well-fixed latches as well as mounting systems that ensure that a passenger is safely held in position when he or she experiences unexpected forces from car accidents, to continue with the intended purpose of design. Hence, a seatbelt failure is characterized by several defects in the overall structure of fixation in the car. Some of these problems can lead to severe injuries, while others are merely supplementary. In such an instance, the accident victim may evade severe injuries, because he or she is still securely held by the safety belt. Some seat belt defects include:
Inefficient Torsion Bar
A torsion bar is a mechanical device mounted inside a car seat to hold the entire seat belt and lets it roll out when a passenger pulls it forward to cover it. It should be fixed appropriately into the seat to allow a firm position even as the seat belt rolls out to cover the passenger. Thus, a defect in the torsion bar's mechanisms may cause the belt to loosen up more than it should because more material that the passenger needs will roll out. If this happens, the safety belt will be highly ineffective, as it does not secure the passenger to the seat firmly.
Alternatively, a safety belt torsion bar could be defective by continually getting stuck. If the roll of the belt doesn’t move, the person rolling it out cannot extract a reasonable length to cover his or her entire chest and torso length, and connect the latch to the fastener. If the safety belt has such a defect, it becomes useless to a car rider because he or she cannot use the entire belt. Consequently, the passenger is exposed to any damaging force that may arise from a car accident.
Unlatching Caused by Force
Sometimes, when a car hits another or rolls over, it may undergo a lot of forces from different directions. If the impact is significant, a defective seat belt may unfasten itself and unlatch from the secure latch box. When the safety belt comes undone because of the unlatching, it is not helpful to the passenger who equally suffers forceful push-back from the impact of the collision.
As a result of the seat belt unlatching, the victim may be unable to hold himself or herself in position and will hit many hard objects or internal car parts. Some even hit their skulls on the vehicle windows, bringing about massive bleeding and other injuries to the accident victims.
Low-Quality Seat Belt Material
Some vehicle manufacturers may source the cheapest raw materials and use them to make seat belts. While such manufacturers view the move as a profitable strategy, they put the passengers and drivers who purchase such vehicles at risk. The vehicle users are likely to suffer from seat belt defects because the material used to make the belt eventually webs off and becomes weak. Consequently, the belt can quickly cut, which risks the safety of a passenger in case of an accident. A webbed safety belt does more harm than good, because a passenger may use it in hopes that it will secure him or her to the seat when force is applied to the vehicle.
The danger in using a low-quality seat belt is that the webbing process is slow. Thus, the belt may cut or rip when you least expect it to, leaving you in a highly vulnerable position.
When a passenger wears a seat belt in a hurry, he or she may think that the latch is tight and secure in the fastener, while, in reality, it is not. The seatbelt failure occurs because of two locks having a similar fit, while they should be made differently. Alternatively, a passenger who is not keen to check the correct latch box to fix the hook may force it into another. Consequently, in case of any car accident, the belt does not serve its purpose. When the passenger is lucky, he or she may not notice the latch's improper fixing and will ride safely until his/her arrival to the destination.
However, when an accident occurs, and the victim experiences a forceful push, the latch will undo itself and string back the seat belt to the torsion bar. If this happens, the victim is exposed to the inertia force of motion, that may land him/her into a hard car part or the windshield.
Accidents arising from improper latching can be highly severe because the victims do not expect the belt to come undone. Therefore, they may be unable to react or hold onto something in good time and sustain severe injuries.
The retractor is a device that should hold the belt in a firm position and stop it from rolling on when a victim leans forward because of external force. It is the critical element of a seat belt’s safety feature since it prevents the victim from moving and hitting himself or herself into a hard car surface or windscreen.
Therefore, if the retractor is defective, it will leave some allowance for the belt to keep rolling, and will not stop the passenger from the high impact on time. Another defect that affects a retractor is when it regularly restricts the belt roll from turning, preventing the passenger from using the belt, and securing it into the latch. The retractor may be too tight and cease all seatbelt functions. Thus, the belt will not provide any safety to the passenger, who remains exposed to any force or impact from a car accident.
Inaccurate Fixing of The Seat Belt System
Vehicles with extra sitting capacity in the open trunk should have additional seat belt structures to support the makeshift seats that are often foldable. Despite the effort by car manufacturers to provide safety belts to the extra seats, they may mount them on the wall of the car instead of inside the seat system. Mounting them on the wall creates an inaccurate line of symmetry, that may force a passenger who occupies such a seat to endure the belt crossing very close to the neck.
Not only is such a safety belt position uncomfortable, but it is also dangerous. In case of any sudden vehicle movements, the belt may choke the passenger violently and cause even more harm than when it was not in use. However, such inaccuracy is not an excuse to refuse to wear the belt, although the passenger needs to take extra care and avoid any inconveniencing and unsymmetrically fixed safety belts. Moreover, because of poor fixing of the seat belt system, it may fail to hold the victim in time because his or her body is not well aligned with the belt. In consequence, you will suffer severe injury.
Injuries Sustained From a Seatbelt Accident
While some passengers may escape a car accident unharmed, most cases result in severe injuries when a seatbelt is defective in function. There are several causes of these injuries, most of them arising from a series of events. For example, when a faulty latch causes the seat belt to open up and releases the passenger from the seat, he or she may hit the windscreen. The following action may be the victim breaking the windscreen glass, and ejecting from the vehicle. Although such a severe accident may seem far fetched, it is prevalent in rollover accidents, as well as in head-on collisions. Some of the injuries obtained from these and other types of car accidents are:
While a victim may not see any physical bruise or injury from a hard impact on a vehicle surface, he or she may suffer from internal bleeding. The damage arises when delicate blood vessels or internal organs are ruptured from the force that the victim endures when he/she hits other objects. Internal bleeding can cause severe conditions afterward, especially if it is not detected in time. The bleeding mostly causes severe blood clots that are likely to result in heart attacks or other fatal conditions. Therefore, after suffering from high impact, you should not ignore recommendations to visit a doctor to detect any possible cases of internal bleeding.
Whiplash is an injury that affects the neck. Although it is not always a severe effect of the accident, it causes a lot of discomfort, especially during the first few days of recovery. Passengers sustain whiplash injuries when there is a sudden and unexpected forward surge that causes the neck to jerk forward as well.
More severe cases of whiplash develop into lifetime conditions. Some patients report cases of recurring pain and discomfort, even after completing successful treatment. Therefore, the injury may require constant medical attention and therapy to help the patient get back in good shape.
Fracture injuries are widespread in car accidents where passengers are ejected from the car after a seat belt defect. In most cases, the accident victim uses his/her arms and legs for support as he or she lands after a forceful ejection. While this is a right reflex action, the force applied to the limbs is often too much than the bone structure can handle. Thus, a victim may suffer fractures on the arms or legs. While fracture injuries range in severity, it may take the broken bones a long time to heal completely and enable the accident victim to use the limbs regularly.
For example, if you break your femur bone, it could take several months to fully recover, in addition to the possible confinement to a wheelchair. Thus, you may need multiple plaster dressings and physiotherapy sessions.
Brain injury is common where victims hit their heads into hard surfaces or the windscreen. The high force may lead to a crack in the skull, causing the brain injury to ensue. Alternatively, a brain injury may arise from violently shaking back and forth as the vehicle rolls over. The shaking may cause the brain to shift its position and cause severe damage. Regardless of how the injury arises, it can bring about adverse effects to the victim involved in such an accident.
Firstly, traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of temporary or permanent memory loss. When a victim sustains a brain injury, it may affect the part responsible for holding short term and long term memories. Secondly, a brain injury may cause concussions and severe headaches, as well as recurring dizziness. Although these symptoms may not be too invasive for the victim’s general health, they may slow down his or her working capacity because they are prone to causing distractions.
Spinal Cord Injuries
When a seat belt fails to support your body and hold it in place, the sudden forward surge could cause a severe injury to the spinal cord. This body part plays a vital role in our health and well being because it is the backbone that supports all other bone structures. Moreover, it creates a passage for all essential nerves to transmit various senses to the rest of the body. Thus, when a patient suffers from spinal injuries, they often result in severe conditions.
One of the most severe subsequent conditions of a spinal injury is paralysis. Due to the pivotal role played by the backbone, any body damage or misalignment may lead to a shut down of other body parts, especially the limbs. In other cases, the paralysis arises from damaged nerves that are harbored in the spine. Since the nerves play a sensory role, their damage may cause you to lose all sense of touch in specific parts of the body. Therefore, spinal cord injuries cause dramatic changes in the lives of the affected persons because they affect a significant body part.
Who Is Liable for Seat Belt Accidents?
Typically, a defect in a vehicle’s seat belt will leave liability on the car manufacturers. They take the blame for such faults because it is their primary duty to ensure that the entire car, including the seat belt system, is in good condition. Also, they should ensure that the quality of materials used in manufacturing the vehicle is excellent, to prevent the quick destruction of such car parts.
Therefore, manufacturers are mostly liable for the inefficient production of seatbelts. The manufacturers promote the sale of vehicles with sub-standard seat belts by:
Choosing Cheap Materials for Design
The manufacturers create a situation of significant risk to car users by neglecting the set standard of seat belt products. The cheap design of materials means that seatbelts web easily, or mechanisms like retractors, latches stall, or jam. If these essential seat belt parts fail, they create an imminent risk to the passenger in case of an accident.
Testing the Final Product using Poor Standards
When the vehicle is done as an entire product, it has to undergo quality testing. Manufacturers play a significant role in ensuring that they source professional-quality surveyors who will ensure that they detect any problems in the final product before it is released into the market. Thus, if the testers apply poor quality standards, they may bypass glaring seat belt failures that consequently become risk factors when accidents occur.
What Kind of Compensation to Seek After A Seatbelt Failure Accident
A car accident victim who sustains severe injuries because of seatbelt failure has a legal right to seek compensation for the loss and inconvenience suffered. Since you are very unlikely to fall liable for any wrong done, you could receive full payment from a defendant. Some of the claims to raise for compensation will cover:
You need to seek urgent medical treatment after being involved in a car accident that includes injury from seatbelt failure. When the doctor examines you, he or she then gives the appropriate prescription of medicine and follow-up procedures you will undertake. In cases where you sustained a severe injury, you may end up hospitalized for some time as required by the doctor. In other instances, you may need constant therapy treatment to train your injured limbs to function regularly again. Since you are an unsuspecting victim who had not planned on incurring any medical costs, the defendants found liable should pay monetary compensation to you. The amount should be sufficient to reimburse all the expenses you used to buy medicine and go for consultations.
Loss of Income
When you suffer permanent injuries like paralysis or irreversible fractures, you may be unable to continue working. The situation is common when your work requires physical input. For example, if you are a professional dancer, your entire career may cease. Consequently, the people or company liable for the defective seat belt that enabled injuries is tasked with paying compensation for such a loss of income. Your personal injury attorney should ensure that an accurate projection is made to cover even future loss.
An accident caused by a seat belt failure results in fatalities, the survivors of the deceased can sue for compensation for the loss. They may include claims for payment that covers funeral costs as well as lost wages that the dead person would have brought into the family, especially if he or she was a primary provider.
Apart from these compensatory payments, the judge presiding over your case may decide to issue punitive damages on the liable party, mostly the manufacturers. The additional fees should deter the defendant from acting in such negligent ways in the future and, therefore, promote the production of better quality seatbelts.
Find A San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Facing the aftermath of a car accident worsened by preventable conditions may be difficult. This is the case in seatbelt failure accidents. Therefore, it is essential to get in touch with experienced attorneys who will make good compensatory claims in court. At the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we apply ourselves to every case we receive. Our services are professional and specially made for you. Give us a call today at 619-478-4059 for a consultation.