New York requires that motorists buckle up. This law promotes public safety and has helped to reduce the number of car accident fatalities and serious injuries. Nonetheless, seat belts can also cause injuries in a crash. Car accidents are so traumatic that occupants can suffer serious injuries when the seat belt restrains them. At Larson & Gallivan Law, our Glens Falls car accident attorneys can help anyone who is hurt in a car accident seek compensation. Sometimes, seat belts end up hurting our clients, and you should seek immediate medical care for these injuries. Then call us to discuss your legal rights to compensation.
Torn Pectoral Muscles
The shoulder strap can put tremendous pressure on the chest in a collision. One injury is a pectoral tear. Each chest has two pectoral muscles, and they can tear from the sternum under pressure. You might need surgery to reconnect the muscle.
Lacerations and Contusions
A seat belt can cut into a person and cause lacerations as well as contusions (bruises). These might not sound like serious injuries, but any laceration could become infected and, after healing, leave scars. Serious contusions also put pressure on nearby nerves and can lead to chronic pain. Heavy swelling threatens to cut off circulation to nearby tissue, leading to tissue death.
Go to the hospital if you suffer a bruise or cut. A doctor can reduce swelling, clean the wound, and offer medication to prevent complications.
The shoulder strap can also dislocate someone’s shoulder, causing intense pain. Muscles and tendons might also be damaged in the process, so you’ll need more treatment after a doctor “pops” the shoulder back into the joint. In fact, damaged tendons can make a shoulder feel unstable for months and limit your range of motion. Many accident victims require physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around their shoulder.
High speed accidents can also fracture one or more ribs. Rib fractures are painful and make breathing and coughing difficult.
Rib fractures also have serious complications, especially for the elderly. Someone 65 or older is at a high risk of developing pneumonia after rib fracture due to shallow breathing. Bacteria can grow and cause pneumonia, which is life threatening for many senior citizens.
Anyone with chest pain following a crash should go to the hospital immediately to see if they have a broken rib. Ribs can’t be set the way a broken leg bone can, because your ribcage needs to expand while you breathe. Instead, treatment will likely consist of icing and rest.
A broken rib can puncture a lung, leading to collapse. This condition occurs when air leaks from the lung into the surrounding cavity. Over time, the pressure outside the lung is too high, causing a lung collapse. This is a life-threatening injury if you do not receive professional care.
Common symptoms include difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, or steady chest pain. Doctors can treat a collapsed lung by inserting a needle or tube to remove excess air from the chest cavity. You might also need surgery to close any holes the air is leaking from.
Serious accidents can push the sternum into the heart, leading to a bruise. This is a heart contusion. Any injury to the heart is obviously a problem. Some complications include bleeding and swelling, and a person can go into cardiac arrest.
Treatment will usually require bed rest so that you don’t strain the heart while it is in a weakened state. This type of injury requires close monitoring. The symptoms are like other chest conditions, such as pain and trouble breathing. An irregular heartbeat is also a sign that you have suffered an injury to your heart.
Should You Avoid Wearing a Seat Belt?
We understand why people ask this question. If seat belts can cause serious chest injuries, like those listed above, should you simply not wear one? Is that a prudent way to avoid a collapsed lung or pneumonia from a cracked rib?
The answer is clear: you need to wear a seat belt. It’s not only the law, but all things considered, seat belts prevent more serious injuries than they cause. Relying solely on your air bags isn’t sufficient, either. Air bags work in tandem with seat belts, not as a standalone safety device.
There is another reason to buckle up: the defendant can raise the “seat belt defense” in a lawsuit if you were unbuckled. Under New York law, failure to wear a seat belt can go to whether a victim mitigated their damages. Essentially, did you take reasonable steps to lessen the impact of the crash, including injuries?. Wearing a seat belt is one reasonable way to ensure that you don’t suffer the most horrifying injuries in a collision.
A defendant who fails to mitigate will end up receiving less in compensation—sometimes a lot less. That is a bitter pill to swallow, but you can avoid this result by buckling up.
You Deserve Compensation for Seat Belt Injuries
Wearing a seat belt is the common, safe thing to do. Anyone who causes a wreck should pay compensation when you suffer a seat belt injury. For example, someone might T-bone you after running a red light, or they could go over the center line and force you off the road. These drivers are liable for the wreck.
Severe chest injuries can prevent New Yorkers from working and typically require pricey medical care, including time in the hospital. You should not have to pay these expenses out of your own pocket. Instead, we can review whether you can make a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance.
Speak with a Glens Falls Car Accident Attorney
New York motorists have personal injury protection insurance, which is useful following a minor collision. But more serious accidents can lead to major medical needs, including time in the hospital. Our law firm is committed to helping you get compensation following a crash. If you call us today, 518-862-8799, we can review the facts surrounding your accident and determine whether you can sue another driver for the wreck.