Seat belts are arguably the most important safety feature of modern vehicles. In fact, seat belts are so critical to injury and fatality prevention that nearly every state in the country (excluding New Hampshire) enforces seat belt laws, and the phrase “click it or ticket” has become part of the American lexicon. When restraints are properly designed and manufactured, they act as priceless life-savers — but when they don’t work the way they were intended to, they can cause serious injury or death.
Whether we travel as passengers or drivers, we count on auto manufacturers to outfit our vehicles with seat belts that are safe and secure. When that trust is betrayed, and manufacturers put profits over safety, the consequences to innocent victims can be dire. When lap belts cause physical injury — already difficult enough to cope with on its own — those injuries often lead to emotional wounds, and devastating medical costs. Injuries caused by seat belts can damage every aspect of a victim’s life, from the physical, to the psychological, to the financial.
Is there anything you can do?
Philadelphia Seat Belt Injury Lawyers
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a lap belt, it is simply unfair that you should have to accept the terrible toll of another party’s mistake. The guilty party should be held accountable for the suffering they have caused you and your family.
At the law offices of The Reiff Law Firm, we are highly seasoned personal injury attorneys with over 34 years of experience. We have been providing quality legal representation to the people of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania since 1979, and have made multiple recoveries exceeding $1 million for clients just like yourself.
While filing a lawsuit cannot eliminate your physical pain, you may be able to win compensation to cover your medical expenses. Many clients find they gain something even more valuable than a financial award: peace of mind that justice has been served. Your case could even save other people from being hurt by the same circumstances in the future.
If you would like to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a personal injury lawyer, or if you simply have questions, call The Reiff Law Firm today at (215) 274-0072.
Why Lap Belts Can Be Dangerous
There are two types of restraint belts commonly used in passenger vehicles:
- Three-point seat belts
- Lap belts
Three point seat belts, (lap/shoulder seat belts) have a strap across the pelvis and hip area, and a strap across the chest and shoulder. Lap belts, on the other hand, have only a single strap running across an occupant’s pelvis or hip region.
In the event of a car crash, a three point seat belt system will spread the force of the impact across the sturdy pelvic bones and throughout the upper torso, lessening the impact any one region of the body may experience. But with lap belts, the force of a car crash is localized to the pelvis and abdomen, creating a substantial risk of injury to the abdominal region and internal organs. Even though seat belts are supposed to protect you from serious injury, lap seat belts often cause severe and sometimes fatal injuries due to their unsafe design.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has spent decades trying to make it a mandatory requirement that all seats in passenger vehicles should be equipped with lap/shoulder seat belts instead of lap belts. A 1999 NHTSA report concluded that lap/shoulder belts are 25% more effective at preventing serious injuries and death in car accidents than lap-only belts, and offer considerably greater occupant protection in a front-end collision. In fact, the report stated that while backseat lap belts did reduce the risk of head injury in the event of a car accident, lap belts actually increased the risk of serious abdominal injury.
Automobile manufacturers have been aware of the serious injuries lap belts can cause for decades, but have continued to use them in order to avoid redesign expenditures. It wasn’t until 2007 that vehicles were required to have three point lap/shoulder seat belts for every seat, including the rear center seat. This means that cars which are only a few years old most likely have lap belts for rear center seats, placing occupants at a risk of serious injury and death.
How Lap Belts Cause Injury
When a vehicle is involved in a front-end collision, the vehicle will slow down very rapidly, while the occupant’s body continues to move forward. A lap belt will hold the occupant’s pelvis and abdomen in place, but the occupant’s upper and lower body will be propelled forward.
This can cause the person’s body to “jackknife,” where the torso and legs are thrown forward violently. This can result in injuries to internal organs, including:
- Organ Rupture
- Bowel Perforation
- Bowel and Organ Dissection/Separation
- Herniated Organs
- Internal Bleeding
- Vertebral Dislocation
- Fractured Vertebrae
- Lumbar Spine Fracture
- Spinal Cord Laceration/Compression
- Spinal Cord Injury
These conditions are often referred to as “seat belt syndrome.”
Because the upper body is not restrained when a lap-only seat belt is used, there is virtually no protection for an occupant’s head and neck. This can lead to:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Closed/Open Head Injury
If you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries or death caused by seat belt syndrome or the use of a lap-only seat belt, the experienced Philadelphia defective seatbelt attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm can help. Call (215) 274-0072, or contact us online today.