Do Seat Belt Failures Result in Personal Injuries?
Although seat belts are one of the most important safety features of any vehicle, it’s a reality that seat belt failures and personal injuries can happen.
Wearing a seat belt reduces a person’s risk of suffering from a critical injury by 50 percent, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). In the most serious accident cases, the failure to wear a seat belt can be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, seat belts do not always function in the manner that they are supposed to. In some cases, seat belts are actually the reason people become injured in accidents.
How Do Seat Belts Work?
Any car accident involves two collisions. The first is the collision between one vehicle and another. The second is the collision between the occupants inside the car and the interior surfaces of the vehicle.
During a crash, a vehicle will come to an abrupt stop when it is struck by another vehicle. This collision can cause the driver and occupants in the struck vehicle to be thrown into each other, as well as other parts of the vehicle. In some cases, people can even be thrown from the vehicle when the collision occurs at a particularly high impact.
Seat belts are also known as safety belts for a reason. They restrain the upper body, so it cannot be thrown forward in an accident, reducing the seriousness of any injuries that occur. People who do not wear a seat belt are also much more likely to be thrown from the vehicle during an accident, which can result in much more serious injuries.
When Do Seat Belts Fail?
The majority of the time, seat belts function in the manner they are supposed to. Still, there are times when they do not function properly. Some of the most common defects include:
- Faulty latches: Faulty latches are one of the most common types of defects found in seat belts. Faulty latches can make it seem as though the seat belt is latched properly, but it is not. Even though a faulty latch will still make a noise, making it seem as though it is engaged, it is not. People often do not realize the defect until the seat belt becomes unlatched during a crash.
- Seat belt slacking: Seat belts should fit across the body fairly snuggly. Excess slack will prevent the seat belt from restraining the upper body, essentially rendering it useless. When a seat belt has extra slack, a person can be thrown backward or sideways in the event of an accident.
- Failed retraction system: Seat belts are meant to allow a portion of slack in the shoulder. Still, when a person is wearing one and they move forward, seat belts are supposed to retract. When a seat belt is defective, the retraction system will not work and that can cause excessive slacking, which can result in serious injuries. Accident victims have been known to suffer spinal, abdominal, and head injuries due to defective seat belt tension retraction devices.
- Defective buckles: Sometimes, seat belts are actually in fairly good condition, but the buckles do not properly function. When this occurs, the seat belt may not properly restrain the body during an accident, causing the person to be thrown from the vehicle.
- Tears in lap belt: Whether a seat belt works properly or not largely depends on the strength of the lap belt. If the proper fabric was not used when creating the seat belt, it may tear when it is placed under the pressure of a car accident. Debris caused by the collision, such as broken glass, can also tear the lap belt, resulting in even more serious injuries to occupants.
Injuries Caused by Faulty Seat Belts
Defect seatbelts can certainly cause serious injuries, and the type sustained will depend on the nature and condition of the seat belt itself. Some of the most common injuries caused by defective seat belts are as follows:
- Some seat belts have shoulder harnesses that move down when the vehicle door is closed. In some cases, a person may forget to fasten the lap belt. If a crash occurs then, the individual can become strangulated, decapitated, or left paralyzed.
- Too much slack in a seat belt can cause injuries to the abdomen, face, spinal cord, and brain.
- Seat belt buckles that are not fitted properly can become disengaged in a crash, leading to strangulation and decapitation.
What Are the Laws on Seat Belts in New York?
New York law requires children and adults both to wear restraints and seat belts any time they are inside a vehicle. Any driver or passenger in the front seat is required to wear a seat belt. Anyone who is found not wearing a seat belt in the front seat may get a ticket as a result. Children under the age of 16 must also wear a seat belt or some type of restraint, such as those found in car seats for infants. Anyone who is found with unrestrained children in a vehicle will receive a ticket, and potentially three points added to their driver’s license.
New York law also allows for a seat belt defense. Under this law, accident victims may receive significantly less compensation after an accident if it is found they were not wearing a seat belt at the time. This is because accident victims are expected to take certain steps to minimize the severity of injuries, such as seeking medical attention right after a crash and wearing a seat belt to prevent injury. Individuals who do not take these steps are considered to have contributed to the seriousness of their injuries and so, are not entitled to full compensation.
Our Car Accident Lawyers in New York City Can Help After a Crash
We hope this guide to seat belt failures and personal injuries has helped you. If you have been injured in a collision, our New York City car accident lawyers can help. At Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, P.C., our skilled attorneys know how to determine which party caused your crash, and will hold them liable for paying the full financial compensation you deserve. Call us now at 1-877-ASK4SAM or contact us online to schedule a free review of your case.