Your seat belt in your car is something that you probably take for granted – especially if you aren’t old enough to remember a time when cars didn’t automatically have them, and nobody had ever heard of a car “beeping” to remind you to put one on.
Seat belts can (and do) play a major role in some car accident claims. Here’s how:
Seat belt syndrome can cause devastating injuries
“Seat belt syndrome” is the name given to a set of injuries that can be caused by a vehicle’s restraint system when the seat belt’s locking mechanism slams into place abruptly. Most people walk away with little more than an impressive set of bruises across their midsection and one shoulder.
Unfortunately, not everybody is that lucky. Because of the way that seat belts cross the passenger’s body, seat belt syndrome can lead to serious internal damage, including blood clots, damage to the kidneys or liver, a perforated bowel, internal bleeding and nerve damage to the spine. What looks like a minor accident can turn out to be very serious, indeed.
A defective seat belt can be a disaster
Even worse, you may have a seat belt that doesn’t function at all. Car manufacturers are supposed to make sure that the seat belts they install operate correctly. If your seat belt failed to tighten or your buckle popped loose when you felt the impact of the other vehicle, you may have been plunged headlong into the windshield or against your steering wheel – increasing your injuries.
In those situations, you may have to pursue both the negligent driver that caused your accident and the seat belt’s manufacturer for their share of the liability.
Not wearing a seat belt could reduce your claim
Finally, despite their imperfections, seat belts still remain the best defense against serious injuries in a wreck.
If you weren’t wearing yours, Missouri’s comparative negligence laws say that your compensation for any damages can be reduced by the percentage of responsibility you bear for your own injuries. That means if a jury decides that your injuries are 50% worse because you didn’t have your seat belt on, you would lose 50% of whatever the value of your claim.
Car accident claims are often more complex than people realize, which is why it’s usually wisest to take steps to protect your rights as soon as possible.