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Motor vehicle accidents happen all too often, and the outcomes can be devastating. The  Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) reports that in 2021 there were over 1,120 deaths from road traffic accidents in Australia. In Queensland, drivers are 8 times more likely to die in a car crash if they are not wearing a seatbelt.

There is no doubt that wearing a seatbelt is essential whenever you’re driving or a passenger in any motor vehicle. The RAC reports that wearing seat belts can reduce the risk of injury in a car accident by up to 90%. If you are injured, it is likely that your injuries will be less severe if you are wearing a seatbelt. For example, a rear end collision might result in some short term whiplash injuries with a seatbelt but life changing injuries without one.

No one would ever suggest that wearing a seatbelt wasn’t the best way to prevent serious injury, and the outcome of a car accident will be much worse if anyone in the car is not wearing a seatbelt. However, it is still true that injuries caused or contributed to by seatbelts themselves can happen.

  • If seatbelts have injured you during a vehicle accident that was not your fault then you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
  • If you’ve been injured in an accident while NOT wearing a seatbelt, you may also be entitled to compensation. Typically, your decision to not wear a seatbelt will reduce how much you can claim but it’s still highly recommended to get advice on your rights. 

Murphy's Law Accident Lawyers are experts in car and road accident injury compensation. Initial advice is free, confidential and no obligation. We can help with incidents that happened anywhere on Queensland roads. Claims are run on a no win, no fee basis with no upfront costs.

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Most common seat belt injuries

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Seat belt injuries are often associated with improper use or a defect in the seat belt itself, including due to wear over time.

Injuries caused by seat belts themselves are sometimes grouped together and called ‘seatbelt syndrome’, which includes:

  • A seatbelt sign, which is essentially a mark on the torso where the seatbelt crosses it, caused by bruising under the skin
  • Spinal injuries, especially to the lumbar section of the spine
  • Abdominal injuries

The wearing of a seatbelt during a car crash has also been associated with injuries to the clavicle (collarbone), and visceral organs like the liver, spleen, or kidneys.

Injured While Not Wearing a Seatbelt

Seatbelt warning light

Seat belts are designed to provide protection to the occupants of a car during a crash, by distributing the severe forces involved in the accident over stronger parts of the body – the chest and pelvic area.

Most people know that everyone travelling in a car is required by law to wear a seatbelt. The law has developed over time as it became clear that seatbelts reduce the risk of fatalities, and the seriousness of injuries sustained, when there is a car crash.

Injuries that occur when occupants of a vehicle are not wearing seat belts can be very severe or even fatal. They can be caused by:

  • blunt force trauma from hitting the steering wheel, windscreen, dashboard, or the seat in front of rear passengers with severe force
  • being propelled through the windscreen or another window of the vehicle, and if this occurs, being struck by another vehicle on the road
  • the driver or passenger being struck by another person in the vehicle

International studies have suggested seatbelt usage may be lower among taxi and rideshare passengers such as Uber compared to private car usage.

Failing to wear a seatbelt is not only illegal but may affect the amount of compensation you can receive for any injuries you have sustained in a car accident. This is because motor vehicle accident injury claims are based on the legal principle of negligence.

As a general guide, a claim for negligence can be made if:

  1. A person or organisation has a duty or responsibility to take care of you - the law generally says that all road users have a duty to take reasonable care to avoid injuring other people using the road. Also, vehicle and seatbelt manufacturers generally have a duty to ensure their products are safe;
  2. The accident happened because someone else didn’t take the type of care that a reasonable person would take in the circumstances; and
  3. Your injury was caused by that person’s lack of care.

It can be argued that an injured person has done something, or failed to do something they should have, and that this has contributed to their injuries. This is called contributory negligence. If contributory negligence is established, the amount of compensation that person receives is likely to be reduced to account for the fact that they are partly at fault for the extent to which they were hurt. Failing to wear a seat belt is likely to be considered contributory negligence in any car accident claim.

Seat belt injury claims are brought under the CTP insurance claim system in Queensland.

How seatbelt injury claims are calculated

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Compensation for personal injuries caused by a seat belt can be paid for:

  • Medical expenses, including any hospital treatment, consultations with doctors and specialists, medication and medical equipment
  • Rehabilitation costs like physiotherapy, and rehabilitation aids
  • Lost wages or earnings
  • An amount set by law called ‘general damages’, which compensates for pain and suffering
  • Legal costs

The amount of injury compensation you can receive will depend on the extent and seriousness of injuries sustained, your prognosis (how likely you are to recover), and your personal and financial circumstances. It will also depend on having the right evidence, or proof, about your condition, how it has impacted your life, and what your ongoing treatment needs are going to be.

Evidence from medical professionals, such as your treating doctors, is very important and will need to be prepared and submitted if you claim compensation. You will also need evidence about what you usually earn, what your medical expenses have been and are likely to be in the future, and any other losses you have suffered. Personal injury lawyers can also advise you how much you are entitled to for general damages for pain and suffering.

The most important aspect of your compensation benefits is that they enable you to get the help you need to recover as quickly and completely as you can.

Time limits for seatbelt injury claims

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Time limits for personal injury claims are strict, which means that you can lose your right to compensation if you don’t submit your claim in time. Personal injury and workers compensation lawyers can advise on the time limits that apply to your situation.

As a general guide, a person making a seatbelt injury claim will have three years to make their claim for compensation in court. However, in Queensland such motor vehicle accident claims are subject to a pre-proceedings process which require the injured person to issue a notice of claim form against the at fault driver within nine months of being injured. 

For worker’s compensation claims through WorkCover, there are shorter time limits - a claim must be lodged within just six months. A worker’s compensation claim can be made if you suffered an injury from a seatbelt while driving as part of work duties, and your employment was a significant contributing factor to the injury. You may also be eligible to claim if you were driving to or from work, or driving for work purposes, when the injury occurred.

See us for a free initial consultation and a lawyer in our team can give you the legal advice you need to ensure your rights are preserved. We may be able to represent you on a no win, no fee basis to claim the compensation you need.

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