Seat belts have improved public safety, and Georgia’s mandatory seatbelt law has saved thousands of lives. However, seat belts are also a source of car accident injuries. When working properly, a seat belt should slow your body enough so that you don’t suffer serious internal injuries. The belt should also keep you from flying through the windshield.
Air bags complement seat belts. When a vehicle crashes, a bag inflates out of the steering wheel or dash to cushion the face. Modern vehicles also have side airbags, which keep a person from slamming their head against the side windows.
After an accident, you might experience bruising or pain where the seat belt cut into your body. You should immediately go to the hospital. Once you receive treatment, remember to call a car accident lawyer at Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys to discuss your case. Whoever caused your accident has liability for injuries caused by seat belts and airbags. They should pay you fair compensation.
The Science Behind Seat Belts
Although seat belts can cause injuries, it’s a serious mistake not to wear one. Multiple studies have shown that seat belts prevent deaths and serious injuries:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that seat belts saved 15,000 lives in 2016.
- If everyone wore seat belts, then an additional 2,500 lives would have been saved in 2016.
- Seat belts have saved more lives than all other safety technologies combined (air bags, electronic stability control, etc.)
- Half of teens and young adults who died in collisions in 2018 were not buckled up.
- Seat belts cut the risk of serious injury for those sitting in the front of a car by 50%.
Seat belts do more than keep someone from flying out of the vehicle. They also slow the body down so that a person suffers fewer serious internal injuries.
Georgia’s Seat Belt Law
You can find Georgia’s seat belt law at OCGA 40-8-76.1. It states that anyone riding in the front of a passenger vehicle must use a seat belt while the vehicle is on a public road or highway. Any child six or younger must also buckle up, regardless of where they are sitting in the vehicle. The state also has laws related to child safety and booster seats.
Violations of these rules will result in fines. However, failure to wear a seat belt will not qualify as negligence in a car accident case and can’t be used to reduce your compensation.
Common Seat Belt Injuries
Accidents are traumatic events. Although seat belts save lives, they can still cause certain injuries, which carry certain complications. Interestingly, many people fear that their seat belt will “lock up” in a crash, causing them to die in a fire or drown. But only 1% of accidents involve water or fire, so you probably won’t be injured in that way.
Instead, seat belts can cause the following injuries:
- Lacerations. The seat belt can cut into a person’s abdomen, chest, or neck, leading to lacerations. Any cut can form a scar when it heals or becomes infected, so clean your wounds carefully and go to the doctor.
- Rib fractures. The seat belt can put sufficient pressure on the ribs to cause a fracture. Victims can experience pain and difficulty breathing. Some motorists, especially the elderly, will develop pneumonia after breaking a rib, and a high percentage of them will die.
- Shoulder injuries. A passenger can suffer a dislocated shoulder or damage to any of the tissue or cartilage. Shoulder injuries often make sleeping difficult and, depending on your job, could require months of unemployment.
- Punctured lung. A fractured rib could puncture a lung. As oxygen escapes the lung, pressure builds up in the chest cavity, causing a lung to collapse. Go to the doctor immediately so that air can be removed.
- Abdominal injuries. The seat belt can cut into a person’s abdomen, leading to internal bleeding. Check for bruising, which is a clear sign that you have suffered an injury.
- Heart contusion. The seat belt can push the sternum (breastbone) into the heart, leading to a bruise. This is a very serious injury which can result in an irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and other life-threatening problems. Many victims need months of rest to let their heart heal.
Airbags are an additional safety feature on cars. They do not replace seat belts, but they can cushion a person’s head during a collision. Airbags have helped reduce the incidence of concussions and other serious injuries.
How do airbags end up injuring passengers? As experienced car accident lawyers, we have seen people injured by:
- Ejected plastic or other debris. When the airbag deploys, pieces of plastic or other debris can be ejected too, at high speeds. This debris can cut a person’s face, injure their eyes, and become embedded in skin.
- Chemical burns. Chemicals involved in the deployment of the bag can burn a passenger or cause respiratory problems if inhaled.
- Failure to deploy. Some bags won’t work as intended, so a passenger is not provided the protection that they would expect. They can suffer facial injuries, neck injuries, and concussions in a crash.
If you were injured by an airbag, remember not to get your car fixed right away. Instead, your car accident lawyer will want to inspect the vehicle, including the parts involved in the airbag. Sometimes a design or manufacturing defect contributes to injuries, and your lawyer needs to see the car as it existed at the time of the wreck.
Speak to an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer
Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys is the law firm to call following an Atlanta car crash. Our team has handled all types of accidents, including those where seat belts and air bags contribute to injuries. You can be sure that we will go the extra mile to ensure you are treated fairly by the insurance companies and receive compensation for your losses. To schedule a meeting with a lawyer, please call our office at (404) 529-3476.