Let’s be clear about this: Seat belts really do save lives. You absolutely lower your risk of dying — by almost 50 percent — in a car accident by wearing one. By no means do you want to get in your car and leave your seat belt off because you are worried about getting injured by the seat belt.
That being said, if you’re in a car accident, you need to be concerned about what is called “seat belt syndrome.” Seat belt syndrome is a unique type of internal injury that is often missed right after an accident.
The classic signs of seat belt syndrome are obvious: bruises and abrasions along the abdomen, chest and neck. The underlying problem is that there can be internal bruising and tears on the abdominal wall. Commonly, the small bowel is injured, although virtually any part of the abdomen may end up damaged in an accident.
The victim of those kinds of injuries might notice pain — at first — but dismiss it as “normal” following an accident. Meanwhile, peritonitis, a bacterial infection caused by the ruptured bowel, can set in and put the victim’s life at risk. Other significant injuries include those to the spinal cord and sternum.
What does all this mean for the average driver? Ultimately, this: If you’re in a car accident, those bruises from your seat belt probably mean that your seat belt saved your life. However, you may still be in more danger. There could be an undetected injury deep inside your body that hasn’t yet been detected.
Go to the emergency room following any significant car accident. Ask to be examined for internal injuries caused by your seat belt if you have any lingering pain or can visibly see where the seat belt was on your body when the accident happened. It could save your life.
Don’t overlook your right to fair compensation for your injuries following a car accident. An attorney can help you understand your options.