It is not only common sense to wear a seatbelt when you get into a car, but even Nevada law requires you to do so. Seat belts save a lot of lives when car accidents occur. But when the designing of the device is not appropriate, they are the primary cause of serious injuries when a crash occurs instead of preventing harm. At the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we represent clients with damages resulting from seatbelt failure.

Understanding Seatbelt History

If you compare today with the 1960s, you will realize that it is safer to drive today in a motorized vehicle than it was in those years. The main reason for this safety is the introduction of seatbelts. A seatbelt is a restraining device installed in almost all commercial vehicles to restrain the upper and lower parts of the body. With the belt on, chances of hitting the interior parts of your car when a high impact crash occurs are minimal. Without the seatbelt, you are likely to hit objects inside the vehicle with your head or be ejected out where chances of survival are minimal.

Note that after the introduction of seatbelts in American cars in 1968, only drivers were allowed to put them on. In 1984, a law was put in place to ensure the driver and all passengers in the car put on a seatbelt.

Nevada Seatbelt Laws

The law about this device is codified under NRS 484D.495. According to this statute, any person who is above six years old and weighs 60 pounds or above must put on a seatbelt or a shoulder harness when in a moving car. Failure to wear a seat belt will get you ticketed and fined.

If you have a note from a doctor indicating that you should not wear a seatbelt, you are an exception to this law. Other exemptions include postal employees delivering mail, passengers in public transportation, and delivery drivers who make several stops.

Defective Seatbelts

Note that although the purpose of seatbelts is to protect lives or prevent severe injuries after a car crash, it is not always the case. Just like any other product, belts can have manufacturing or design defects, which means they can fail. If you are wearing a defective seatbelt and a car accident occurs, the defective device might end up inflicting severe injuries in the event of a malfunction. A seat belt malfunction can also result in death.

The phase of the accident you are involved in determines the kind of injuries you sustain after a crash. A phase one collision is where a car collides with another vehicle or object, while phase two is when the car occupants suffer injuries due to impact with the interior of the auto. When this happens, you are likely to sustain injuries in your chest, head, abdomen, or spine.

Unfortunately, there is a manifold of ways in which seatbelts can fail due to design, manufacture, or installation mistakes. Below are the common seat belt defects:

  1. False Latching

Sometimes, the seatbelt buckle can feel and appear as if it is securely latched or attached, which might not be accurate. If the clasp is not fully engaged, even the impact from a minor car crash can result in a belt releasing and leaving you unprotected.

  1. Failure in the Retracting Device

When a car accident occurs, the retracting device in your seat belt should lock and hold you as the occupant in place. If this retracting device fails, the seat belt might not tighten quickly enough to protect you from the injuries that occur during a vehicle collision. When the retracting device malfunctions, it might also release excess slack that might end, causing severe injuries on the occupant.

  1. Poorly-Mounted Systems

The best seat belt anchor systems are mounted on the seat so that the car seat can function well with the seat belt. If the device is mounted on the door or in any other place that isn’t the seat, poor seat geometry occurs, which might contribute to seat belt failure.

  1. Material or Webbing Defects

Seatbelts are in a way that they withstand a terrific amount of force. If the weaving of the material is defective or the content itself, in case of a massive degree of energy during a car crash, the seat belt is likely to rip or tear, exposing you to injuries like those of a person who had not buckled on.

  1. Inertial Unlatching

Although the majority of leading car manufacturers argue that inertial unlatching doesn’t happen, tests have been conducted and proved otherwise. According to these tests, some seatbelts release or unlatch because of force that occurs after a collision. Cases of seatbelt releasing can be fatal, especially in rollover crashes where your body might get in contact with the latching system of the belt, forcing it to release.

  1. Lap-Only Designed Seatbelts

A standard seatbelt should protect both the lap and the upper body. The lower part of the belt that crosses your lap rests on the pelvic bones. Having the belt that covers the lower side of your body alone can expose you to the spinal cord and abdominal injuries. The injuries are common where the occupant slides under the belt or when the belt handsprings off the pelvis.  

The above indicators show how seat belts can malfunction. Car manufacturers have taken these defects seriously because they cause severe injuries and, at times, fatalities to car occupants. Because of this, manufacturers who have discovered some of their car models to have seat belt defects are recalling those models to make the seat belts safer by correcting the deficiencies.

In the event a seat belt malfunction results in death or injuries after a car accident, vehicle defect experts will investigate the issue to establish if the injuries or fatalities were as a result of the seatbelt. It is the role of car makers to design and manufacture seat belts that can withstand an accident. The devices should be crashworthy and perform its intended function. The other aim of the manufacturers is to protect vehicle occupants from colliding or hitting objects flying inside the car and prevent passengers from being ejected out of the vehicle.

If you sustain injuries or someone in your car dies because of seatbelt failure, you have the right to seek compensation. However, you should understand that this will not be a walk in the park because insurance companies will try to argue that you were not wearing a seatbelt at all to reduce the compensation you should receive.

Detecting Seatbelt Failure

After an accident, evaluating and determining if a seatbelt is defective is not an easy task. The evaluation is based on the facts of the accident and the type of injuries. Below are some of the things that might indicate seatbelt failure:

  • The occupants of the vehicle sustained serious injuries after a minor accident
  • A car occupant in the accident was in a loose hanging seatbelt after the crash
  • The injured passengers were not buckled after the collision, but they maintain they had the belts on before the crash.
  • The car has little damage, but the belted occupants have sustained severe injuries
  • A torn or damaged seat belt is found in the wreckage after the car crash
  • More than one belted passenger sustained critical injuries after the force from the collision.
  • A front seat occupant wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident was thrown out of the vehicle or made contact with the windshield.
  • There is inconsistency in the severity of injuries sustained by belted occupants

If you observe any of these signs in a car crash and you have injuries, reach out to your injury attorney immediately. The attorney will commence investigations immediately to determine if the seat belt malfunction caused the injuries or not.

Liability for Seatbelt Failure

Injuries and fatalities caused by seatbelt failure can be blamed on the manufacturers, designers, and distributors or sellers of the seatbelts. Designers of these devices take time to come up with a system that ensures the safety of the driver and passengers in a vehicle. However, these designs are not always safe. It is up to the manufacturers to do thorough testing to ensure that before the product goes in the market to ensure vehicle occupants will be safe even after a crash.

Auto manufacturers do a lot of testing, but they are not quick in using new technology to update old seatbelt systems. Vehicles with the latest technology might not be compatible with the old seatbelt systems, which can fail. Often, it is the user of the car who realizes these defects after a crash as occurred.

Due to these reasons, you can file a claim against the manufacturer to receive punitive or compensatory damages.

Potential Damages in Seat Belt Failure

Compensatory damages seek to reimburse you for the loss you have incurred after injuries contributed or caused by defective seat belts. If you lost a loved one because of seat belt malfunction, you could also sue the designers and sellers of the belts for wrongful death. Although the compensation won’t bring a loved one back or take away the injuries, punitive damages deter auto manufacturers from putting defective products on the market and motivates them to conduct thorough testing on products before putting them in the market.

Some of the potential damages you can receive after injuries or fatalities caused by malfunction seatbelts seek to compensate you for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Medical bills
  • Emotional distress
  • Wrongful death
  • Loss of limb

Note that in many cases, personal injury attorneys will pursue damages for the primary cause of the accident. Seatbelts are secondary causes of injury, and your attorney might focus on seeking compensation from the at-fault party. If there is no one to blame for the accident, you can turn to the manufacturer of the seatbelts that injured you for a product liability lawsuit.

Common Seat Belt Injuries

Detecting a seatbelt failure isn’t easy. However, the injuries caused by device failure are notable. Some of the injuries include:

  • Bruising
  • Whiplash
  • Abdominal injuries
  • Intestinal injuries
  • Dislocations
  • Fractures
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Concussion
  • Coma
  • Massive head trauma
  • paralysis

Symptoms of Seat Belt Injuries

Some of the injuries caused by seatbelt failure are not evident immediately. Particular injuries have delayed symptoms and might not manifest quickly. A lot of people fail to receive compensation where after a crash, they get injured by defective seat belts but fail to notice the injuries. It should no longer be the case because there are specific symptoms that, if you experience after a car accident, you should know that a defective seat belt has injured you. These symptoms are:

Abdominal Pain

When a car collides with another vehicle or an object, a seat belt does exert a lot of pressure on the occupants of the auto. If the power is too much, it can result in kidney damage. Usually, if your kidney has been damaged, you will begin to feel pain in your abdominal region. Depending on the force exerted by the seat belt, your kidney might be bruised or entirely shattered. You will start to experience blood in the urine for the time being. If the problem goes untreated for a long time, it might result in hypertension and loss of urine control.

Therefore, if you experience abdominal pain or blood in the urine, and you didn’t think that the seat belt might have injured you, reach out to your injury attorney immediately. A profound attorney will assist you in getting compensation for kidney damage and future medical bills if you are expected to suffer further complications because of the injury in the future.

Neck Pain

As said earlier, whiplash is one of the prevalent injuries caused by seatbelt. It occurs when your head is abruptly forced in one direction and the opposite causing tissue damage around the neck. People who have suffered this injury will often feel pain or stiffness around the neck. Headaches and chronic pain are also some of the signs of whiplash.

Respiratory Problems

Apart from kidney damage, your heart or lungs might also get damaged in a car accident. Some of the symptoms to look out for to know if you have suffered lung damage include breathing difficulties.

Body Weakness

As mentioned above, seat belts can cause spinal cord injuries. Some of the injuries sustained around the lower back can cause nerve damage, leading in general weakness, weakness in the legs, or feeling dizzy. A lot of people fail to report general faintness after a car accident, thinking that it is reasonable to feel that way. However, this isn’t true because weakness is a sign of internal organ damage or shock.

In Nevada, it is advisable that after a crash, you seek medical attention, whether you have been injured or not. Doing so doesn’t only help in preventing delayed symptoms, but it also helps when seeking compensation.

Preventing Seatbelt Failure Injuries

The most effective way to reduce or prevent injuries caused by defective seat belts is through ensuring proper placement of these devices. NHTSA provides the following guidelines on the placement of seat belts:

  • The belt protecting the upper part of your body should rest across the midsection of your chest.
  • The belt protecting your lower body part should rest on the pelvic bones slightly below your stomach.
  • When looking for comfort, on no occasion should you place the shoulder belt behind your back or under your armrest.
  • The seatbelt shouldn’t be uncomfortably close-fitting or unfastened to allow free movement of the passenger around the seat.

Knowledge about these tips will help prevent severe injuries even in the event the seat belt fails. Remember, pregnant women and children can suffer the worst injuries if they are not wearing seat belts properly. For instance, if a woman wears the belt strap across the stomach instead of across the pelvis or hips, in the event of an accident, the person could suffer placental abruption.

Note that although seat belts are associated with car accident injuries, most of the time, they protect you from even worse injuries. Keep in mind that even serious seat belt injuries can be the reason you survive a fatal crash.

Myths Surrounding Seatbelts 

Many people don’t put seat belts on because of various beliefs and misconceptions about these safety devices. Some of the myths include:

  • You don’t have to buckle up when traveling for a short distance. The tale is untrue because you are required to wear the seatbelt every time a motorized vehicle is in motion.
  • You don’t have to buckle up a child on a short trip. No matter the distance of the drive, your child will be much safer if he or she has the seatbelt on which makes this myth false.
  • You can be trapped in a vehicle by a seat belt. The myth is also untrue. In most cases, people who are trapped in the car are unconscious. The unconsciousness is brought about by injuries caused by not buckling up. So, a person who is wearing a seat belt will be conscious after a car crash because the belt protects them from the impact, which means they can quickly get out of the car after the accident.
  • You can be thrown out of a car and survive. The myth is false because the chances of surviving in a car crash are much higher if an ejection happens.

How Not Wearing Your Seatbelt Can Affect Your Car Accident Claim

As said earlier, Nevada law requires anybody above six years and weighing 60 pounds or above to buckle-up every time they are in a moving car. Although even wearing a seatbelt can result in injuries if the device is defective, not wearing one can result in devastating harm in the event of a collision. Wearing a seat belt is mandatory when you are in a car, but the law limits how not wearing this device affects your claim in the event of an accident.

In a personal injury claim, failing to wear a seat belt is not contributory negligence. You can argue that the defendant contributed to your injuries through an independent act of negligence. Breach of the legal duty of care is what is considered contributory negligence. NRS 484D.495(4) prohibits defendants from raising the issue in cases where the defendant was the primary cause of the accident that caused injuries but were made worse by you failing to wear a seat belt.

Also, it is essential to note that not wearing a seat belt is not an intervening cause of injury. In personal injury claims, you have to prove that the actions of the defendant caused your injuries. If the defendant succeeds in showing that the cause of the injuries was something else other than his or her negligence, then he or she won’t be liable for the damages. The defendant can argue that based on the symptoms you are experiencing, your injuries were due to seat belt failure. The argument works best where a minor accident occurs, and you sustain symptoms or damages that are caused by seat belts. Again, the defendant can claim that although the accident occurred, it was due to other major mechanical problems but not his or her negligence. The defendant cannot, however, argue that the injuries were a result of not wearing a seat belt.

Statute of Limitations for Seat Belt Failure Claim

If you are involved in a car accident, you have up to two years from the day of the crash to file a claim. The time starts running from the date of the crash. If you suspect defective seat belts caused your injuries and decided to pursue a product liability claim, the time limit for this is four years. If a minor is involved, the parent of the child can seek approval from the court to pursue the claim. If that doesn’t work, the child has to wait until he or she turns 18 to file a claim.

Find a Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Have you been injured due to seatbelt failure after a car accident and want to seek financial compensation? Don’t hesitate to call Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm at 702-996-1224. We will investigate the accident and guarantee not to miss the defective seat belt, which police officers often miss when investigating car crashes.