The law states that unless you have a medical exemption certificate, you must wear a fitted seat belt, whether you are the driver or a passenger (over the age of 12) in a car, taxi or van.
Wearing seat belts helps to prevent serious injuries in the event of a road traffic accident. However, a seat belt can still cause less serious injuries in a collision, and it may be possible to bring a road traffic accident compensation claim for those injuries.
For example, a high impact collision between a car and a larger vehicle, such as a truck, may force the seat belt to tighten across the chest, causing bruising and burns. In some situations, the sternum or ribs may be fractured. In serious cases, a chest fracture could cause a lung to collapse.
Whiplash injuries may also be sustained when the upper body is restrained by the seat belt whilst the head is thrown forwards and backwards by the force of the collision. This action causes damage to the muscles, ligaments and nerves of the neck.
Although wearing a seat belt in a high speed collision can prevent severe and fatal injury, the force of the crash may still result in fractures to the cervical spine.
How much compensation can I claim for a seat belt injury?
The amount of compensation awarded will depend on the severity of your injuries and the time it may take to fully recover from them.
During the claims process, you will be examined by an independent medical expert who will create a report detailing the parts of the body that are affected by your injuries and how long your symptoms might continue. This will form the basis of the compensation claim, which will include the costs of loss of earnings if you are unable to work because of your injuries, and the costs of medical treatment and other support you may require as a result.
What if I was injured in a collision but was not wearing a seatbelt?
Should you be injured in a road traffic accident that was the fault of another driver, your claim for injury would be against that negligent driver, irrespective of whether you were wearing a seat belt or not.
However, a court may consider that your injuries may have been less serious if you had been wearing a seat belt, and may reduce the amount of compensation awarded. Typically, this is around a 25% deduction for the 'contributory negligence'.
Read more about compensation for a road accident without a seatbelt here.
My seat belt failed and I was injured
Although it is rare for seat belts to fail, it may be possible to bring a defective product claim if it can be proved that the seat belt was faulty and that the injuries would have been less severe or minimised had the seat belt held fast. Your solicitor would bring a claim for the defective seat belt against the car manufacturer under product liability laws. An engineer's report might be required to prove the case.