Seat belts save lives in car accidents. It’s been proven time and time again. That’s why South Carolina law requires every driver and occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seat belt when traveling public roads in the state.

What is less understood is that after a seat belt has prevented you from being injured in a car accident, it is likely damaged and should be replaced. Seat belts, like airbags, are meant to be used only once.

If you have been in a car accident, the insurance payout for vehicle damage in the accident should include the cost of replacing seat belts worn during the accident. If someone else was responsible for the accident, their auto liability insurance should pay for your losses, including repairs to your vehicle and medical bills for injuries you have suffered. At Joye Law Firm, we help injured people in South Carolina seek all of the compensation they are due after accidents caused by others.

Contact a Joye Law Firm car accident lawyer about a crash that has left you injured and in need of maximum compensation from the responsible party.

How Does a Seat Belt Protect You in a Car Accident?

Seat belts restrain the wearer when they are in a crash. When worn properly, lap and shoulder belts are designed to spread crash forces across the stronger bones of the body, including the shoulders, rib cage, and pelvis, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Seat belts prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected from the vehicle and from being slammed against the dashboard, steering wheel, and sides of the vehicle’s interior.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash. More than three out of four people who are ejected during a crash die from their injuries.

If you are not wearing a seat belt in a collision, you could be thrown into an airbag as it rapidly opens, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. Airbags open with enough force to injure or even cause fatal injuries.

According to the NHTSA:

  • If you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of:
    • Fatal injury by 45%
    • Moderate to critical injury by 50%.
  • If you buckle up in a light truck, you can reduce your risk of:
    • Fatal injury by 60%
    • Moderate to critical injury by 65%.

What Happens to a Seat Belt in a Crash?

When your car is moving at a rate of 60 miles per hour, so is your body. A seat belt that stops a person from flying forward in a car crash absorbs the energy built up by moving at 60 mph and spreads it out over the strongest parts of the body.

Absorbing that energy affects the seat belt, as well. This can stretch or tear the belt fabric. It can also break the seat belt mechanism’s mechanical pieces, such as the pretensioner, which reels the belt back, and the locking retractor, which holds the belt in place so the wearer is restrained.

Why Should Seat Belts Be Replaced After a Car Accident?

The problem with seat belts after an accident is that stretching and tiny tears in a seat belt that can happen during a crash may not be visible to the untrained eye. Mechanical parts of the seat belt apparatus are encased and cannot be readily inspected. You may not realize that the seat belt no longer works correctly until you need it to keep you safe in another crash or near-collision.

Experts say you should replace seat belts that were used to restrain someone in an accident or that have been in use for 10 to 15 years. You should examine seat belts regularly for obvious signs of damage, like fabric beginning to fray or stitching breaking away. If a seat belt does not extend, lock into the buckle, tense, and/or retract as it should, it needs to be inspected and repaired or replaced.

What Other Car Parts Should I Replace After an Accident?

Any part of a vehicle is susceptible to damage, depending on the force of impact and type of collision the vehicle is in. In addition to seat belts, car parts likely to need repair or replacement after a collision include, but are not limited to:

  • Airbags
  • Bumpers
  • Doors and door panels
  • Windows and window seals
  • Fenders
  • Front grill
  • Hood
  • Trunk lid
  • Trunk lock
  • Electronic systems, especially warning systems
  • Children’s car seats

After an accident, you should have your vehicle thoroughly examined, including the seat belts, by a reputable, ASE-certified automotive technician.

If you have been injured badly enough to require medical care after a car accident someone else caused, you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer. You may be able to seek compensation for your medical bills, vehicle repair or replacement, loss of work and wages, and more.

Contact Our Experienced South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers

The car accident attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been helping hard-working South Carolinians pursue compensation for their car accident injuries since 1968. We can investigate the cause of your accident and who is responsible, calculate your total losses, and demand justice for you. There is no legal fee for our services unless we recover compensation for you.

Call Joye Law Firm today at 888-324-3100 or reach out online to set up your free, no-obligation initial legal consultation. We serve all of South Carolina from offices in Charleston, Columbia, Clinton, Summerville, and Myrtle Beach.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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