Seatbelts protect and save lives in accidents. But by doing so, they can also cause injuries. Liability for a seatbelt injury can depend on who was at fault for the accident and whether the seatbelt functioned properly. If you suffered injuries in an accident, speak with a Washington State car accident attorney at Max Meyers Law PLLC.
Different Types of Injuries and How They Happen
Many different seatbelt-related injuries can occur in an accident, but a few of the most common are:
- Injury to Internal Organs: Internal organ injury can occur when the occupant is wearing a lap belt and the body bends over the belt in an impact, causing soft tissue or spinal cord injuries.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI): If the seatbelt malfunctions, occupants may hit their heads, leading to TBIs.
- Chest and neck injuries: Chest injuries can occur from the force of impact. Neck injuries can occur if the occupant is of short stature and the belt is across her neck instead of her shoulder.
- Death: Seatbelts can operate improperly or fail to operate at all, leading to fatal injuries. An accident victim can also die through using a “passive restraint system” (seatbelt mounted to the door). If the door opens or is ripped off the car, an occupant can be ejected from the car.
Theories of Liability
As stated above, who is at fault in the accident and whether or not the seatbelt functioned properly can affect liability.
If the seatbelt functioned correctly and you still suffered injuries, the at-fault driver will be liable for those injuries. You must be able to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries and that your injuries caused damages.
If the seatbelt did not function properly (broke, came loose, unlatched), the manufacturer is likely liable for your injuries. Under Washington State strict product liability laws, an accident victim only needs to prove that:
- The manufacturer produced the seatbelt
- The seatbelt was unreasonably dangerous/defective
- The seatbelt caused injuries and subsequent damages
In some cases, victims may be able to sue the dealer that sold them the car. To sue a dealer/seller in Washington, victims must prove that the seller was negligent. Essentially, the victim must prove that the seller knew of the defect and sold them the car anyway. They must also prove that the defect caused their injuries.
Note: If you were wearing the seatbelt incorrectly, which contributed to your injuries, you could be partially negligent.