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Seatbelt Injuries in a Wilmington Car Crash

The At-Fault Driver Is Responsible for All Your Damages

Seatbelts are a critical piece of safety equipment that should be worn while a car is in motion, and they have been shown to save lives. But on occasion, these safety features can fail or cause additional injury to the vehicle’s occupants.

If you have been in a wreck because of someone else’s negligence, call Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 772-9960 to schedule a free consultation. Our Wilmington injury lawyers can examine your injuries and determine if you have a claim for compensation against the seatbelt manufacturer as well as the other driver.

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What Injuries Can Seatbelts Cause?

The use of seatbelts associated with unique injuries is called “the seatbelt syndrome.” Medical professionals are noticing a rise in these types of injuries, and are focusing their efforts on early detection and treatment. After a car wreck, victims may suffer:

  • Abdominal injuries: Perforation of the bowel and ruptured intestines are common after a seatbelt restrains a person in a violent collision. These ruptures can cause internal bleeding, infection, and other complications, like peritonitis.
  • Peritonitis: An inflammation of the membrane covering the abdominal organs, peritonitis is directly related to bacterial or fungal infections caused by a ruptured organ. It can be life-threatening if not diagnosed in time and treated with antibiotics.
  • Spinal trauma: Especially in rear-end collisions, occupants may suffer serious spinal trauma, mostly due to a lap seatbelt. The severe flexing of the torso can cause a tear in the “posterior elements” of the victim’s spine, which protect the spinal cord and nerve roots inside the vertebrae. It can also cause fractures in the spinal column, leading to nerve damage.
  • Nerve damage: Seatbelts can cause injury to the brachial plexus (the nerve clusters controlling each shoulder and arm) in a collision. Depending on how bad the injury was, the patient may need surgery to repair the damage.
  • Pelvic fracture: People in car crashes may suffer three types of pelvic fracture: acetabular fractures, avulsion fractures, and open-book fractures. Side-impact collisions can also compress the pelvis, causing injury.
  • Dislocated shoulder: Dislocations are more likely in a high-speed head-on collision, especially if the victim was leaning his arm on the door’s window frame.

Seatbelt injuries can be overlooked after a crash, so make sure you visit a medical professional right away and inform them you were wearing a seatbelt. The doctor should want to perform an X-ray to look for signs of internal injuries.

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What Are the Symptoms of a Seatbelt Injury?

Seatbelt injuries tend to have “delayed presentation,” which means they may not show up right after the incident. In the days and weeks after the crash, be on guard for:

  • Scrapes or bruising on the neck, chest, or stomach (“the seatbelt sign”)
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Difficulty using the bathroom
  • Bloating, fever, or nausea
  • Shoulder or neck pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness in the muscles

All of the above symptoms are indications your seatbelt caused you injury. Get medical help as quickly as possible, and record the fallout from your injuries through journaling and a complete medical record. If your physician recommends a course of treatment, be sure to adhere to it, as this will help you in a personal injury claim.

If you have been in a car wreck, contact the seatbelt injury lawyers at Rhine Law Firm, P.C. Our team will gather the facts of the wreck to determine if your seatbelt caused your injuries or made them worse. We will review the police report, interview witnesses, consult with accident recreation specialists, and work with firms that specialize in testing safety equipment to prove your case.

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What If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt During the Collision?

In North Carolina, each occupant of a vehicle must wear a seatbelt according to G.S. 20-135.2A. However, if you were a victim in a car wreck and you were not wearing a seatbelt, you may still have a right to seek compensation for your injuries from the at-fault driver: “Evidence of failure to wear a seat belt shall not be admissible in any civil trial.”

As long as you not wearing a seatbelt did not contribute to the cause of the wreck, and the other driver was either totally at fault or driving with reckless disregard, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. The best way to ensure you receive full and fair compensation is to consult the Wilmington personal injury attorneys at Rhine Law Firm, P.C., by calling (910) 772-9960. We offer a free consultation to injury victims.

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