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What is seat belt syndrome? The risks and symptoms

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Seat belts are among the most crucial safety features in any vehicle, designed to protect drivers and passengers alike in the event of a collision. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts save close to 15,000 lives every year.

However, even though seat belts save thousands of lives and prevent or reduce countless numbers of injuries, they can also lead to a potentially serious condition called “seat belt syndrome.” 

How do you recognize seat belt syndrome?

Seat belt syndrome refers to a pattern of injuries that can occur when a person wearing a seat belt is involved in a crash that leads to an abrupt stop. The sudden force the seat belt exerts on that person’s chest, abdomen and spine can lead to minor injuries – or life-threatening ones.

Commonly, seat belt syndrome causes:

  • Chest injuries: In high-impact accidents, it can also cause chest injuries, including rib fractures, sternum fractures and damage to internal organs  – including the heart and lungs.
  • Abdominal injuries: The lap portion of the seat belt can exert significant force on the abdomen during a crash, potentially leading to injuries to the abdominal wall and damage to internal organs, like the liver and spleen.
  • Spinal injuries: The sudden deceleration in a crash and the force of the seat belt can also result in spinal injuries, including compression fractures or herniated discs in the spine.

The symptoms of seat belt syndrome can vary widely depending on the severity of the accident and the specific injuries sustained. Common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Abdominal pain, tenderness, or swelling
  • Bruising or abrasions along the seat belt’s path
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Back pain or stiffness
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities

If you’ve been in a wreck recently or your loved one has been, don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance. What looks like just a few bruises right now could turn deadly within hours. Experienced legal guidance can help you recover your losses.