A Guide to Claiming Seat Belt Injury Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a seat belt injury we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a seat belt injury and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

Introduction

The law states that unless you have a medical exemption certificate, you must wear a fitted seat belt. This law applies whether you are the driver or a passenger (over the age of 12) in a car, taxi or van.

Typical Injuries

Wearing seat belts helps to prevent injuries in the event of a road traffic accident. However, a seat belt can also cause 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 while 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.

Do I have a seat belt injury claim?

As a basic rule, you can make a seat belt injury claim if you sustained an injury:

  • in the last three years, and;
  • someone else was to blame, and;
  • that person owed you a duty of care.

Find out whether you may have a claim with our Online Claim Checker:

Check my claim

What are the exceptions?

If these two points don't apply to you, you may still be able to make a claim.

To confirm whether you are eligible to claim you can speak to a legal expert on 0800 612 7456.

A short call will confirm whether you have a claim. We will not put you under pressure to make a compensation claim.

What if the road accident was my fault?

If you think you were partly responsible for the road accident or for your injury, it should still be possible to make a claim.

In these cases, claims are usually settled with a split liability agreement.

For example, if you were 50% responsible for your injuries, you would receive 50% less compensation.

Read more about when there is uncertainty as to who is to blame.

What if the driver was uninsured or untraceable?

If the driver responsible for the injury is either uninsured or untraceable, a claim can be pursued through the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB).

The MIB is an independent body that pays road accident compensation to the victims of uninsured or untraced (unidentified) drivers.

Read more

What if a child was injured?

The 3 year rule does not apply to minors.

A claim can be pursued for anyone under the age of 18 by a parent, guardian or litigation friend. The injured child has up to the age of 21 to start a seat belt injury claim on their own behalf.

Read more about claiming injury compensation on behalf of a child.

Can I make a seat belt injury claim right up to the three-year limit?

Technically, yes. However, in practice, not always. Many solicitors will not take on a seat belt injury claim that only has a few months (sometimes even a year) left before the time limit expires. The panel of solicitors will take a claim on as late as possible where it is felt that the claim could be successful.

What if I want to make a multi-party or group claim?

A multi-party claim (sometimes referred to as a 'group claim' or a 'class action') brought by a group of people who have sustained the same or similar injuries due to the negligence of the same defendant. How you start a multi-party claim will depend on the circumstances and we recommend you speak to a solicitor for more information.

How much compensation can I claim for a seat belt injury?

The amount of money you could claim for your seat belt injury will depend on:

  • the extent of your injury, and
  • any financial losses or costs you have incurred.

At the start of your claim, your solicitor will consider the many ways your seat belt injury has affected your life. Your solicitor will take all of these effects into account to calculate the correct compensation award for you.

This calculation will factor in 'general damages' and 'special damages'.

General damages

General damages are awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity (PSLA).

Awards for general damages are set by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards.

Special damages

Special damages are for financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

What can I claim for after a seat belt injury? (see list)

Examples of special damages (losses you can claim for) include:

  • Lost earnings (including future earnings)
  • Medical treatment costs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Travel costs
  • Costs of care
  • Costs of adapting your home or car

How is compensation calculated if I have multiple injuries?

If you have sustained multiple injuries, the compensation amounts are not simply added together.

The upper bracket of the most serious injury may be considered as a starting point, with a reduced amount applied for the other less severe injuries.

For example:

General damages for a serious shoulder injury can be £15,000

For a less severe chest injury, in isolation, you would typically receive £4,200.

However, if you have a serious shoulder injury and a less severe chest injury, you would typically receive £15,000 + a reduced percentage of £4,200.

Special damages, such as loss of earnings are not usually increased if you have multiple injuries.

Read more about multiple injury claims

What is the average injury compensation for a seat belt injury claim?

The Judicial College injury tables give a approximate idea of the ranges awarded for different injuries.

However, the money you would receive following a seat belt injury will depend entirely on your specific circumstances.

Your seat belt injury compensation will be calculated based on the unique impact your injuries have had on your life, your ability to work, and the actual financial losses you have incurred as a result of your injuries.

See the injury table above for some examples.

Should I set up a personal injury trust?

If you are receiving means-tested benefits and are awarded compensation following a seat belt injury injury, your benefits could be affected. In order to ring fence your compensation and protecting your benefits, you may be able to set up a "Personal Injury Trust" or "PI Trust". Read more: Should I set up a personal injury trust?

Can I get an interim payment?

Interim payments are effectively an advance on a probable compensation award. An interim payment may be awarded if the claimant is in immediate financial hardship.

Seat belt injury compensation calculator

Calculating how much compensation you can claim for a seat belt injury can be complicated.

Our injury compensation calculator tells you if you may have a claim, how much compensation you could claim, and what you can claim for.

Find out what your seat belt injury claim could be worth now:

Calculate compensation

How long does a seat belt injury claim take?

The length of time needed to win compensation for a seat belt injury can vary significantly.

A simple uncontested road accident claim could be settled in a month or two. If liability is denied, however, the process might take substantially longer. Normally a road accident claim takes between 4 and 9 months. See:

How long will my claim take?

Will I still be able to claim for a seat belt injury after the law changes in April 2020?

The law relating to personal injury claims is changing in April 2020.

You will no longer be able to claim no win, no fee compensation using a solicitor for lower value claims (under £5,000).

In addition, compensation for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries will be reduced.

Caring and sensitive support

Your solicitor will handle your seat belt injury claim from the initial consultation through to the financial settlement. In addition, your solicitor will work with other specialists to help you with:

  • Financial support: interim payments while you are unable to work.
  • Advice: on personal injury trusts, tax and welfare benefits.
  • Coordination: with rehabilitation providers and therapists.
  • Access: to treatment and therapies not always available on the NHS.

Will I get financial advice?

Your solicitor will be able to advise you on whether to accept a financial settlement for your seat belt injury claim. If you require tax planning or trust advice, the solicitor will recommend and work closely with a financial adviser.

What if I wasn't wearing a seatbelt?

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident that was the fault of another driver, your injury claim would be against that negligent driver, 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.

Seatbelt failures

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 had the seat belt not failed.

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.

How does no win, no fee work?

No Win, No Fee is an agreement with your solicitor (known as a Conditional Fee Agreement or CFA) that means that you can make a seat belt injury claim with:

  • no upfront legal fees
  • no solicitor's fees payable if your claim is not successful
  • a success fee payable only if your claim is successful

No Win, No Fee is the most common way to make a compensation claim.

Our no win, no fee guarantee

Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is zero financial risk in making a seat belt injury claim - even if you don't win your claim.

What do I pay if I win my seat belt injury claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, once your claim is settled. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

What do I pay if I do not win my seat belt injury claim?

If your seat belt injury claim is not successful then you do not have to pay any legal fees . Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

How can Quittance help?

Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning road accident claims.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

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Seat belt injury FAQ's

Can I claim for someone else?

Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

Can I claim if I was partly responsible for an accident?

You may still be able to claim compensation even if you contributed to your accident or to your injuries.

However, if you were partly to blame (known as contributory negligence), your compensation may be reduced and it may be more difficult to prove liability.

Read more about claiming compensation if you were partly responsible for an accident.

How long do I have to make a seat belt injury claim?

In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the seat belt injury to make an injury claim.

The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your seat belt injury claim becomes 'statute barred'.

Can I claim for a seat belt injury after 3 years?

Possibly. The general rule for adults is that a claim must be started within three years.

However, the three-year countdown starts on the day you learned of your injury or illness. This will usually be the date of the accident, but could be the date your doctor gave you a diagnosis.

If you were injured as a child, you do have up until your 21st birthday to make a claim.

There other circumstances that can also impact the limitation date. Call us now on 0800 612 7456 to find out if you are still able to claim seat belt injury compensation.

In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether a car accident claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

Calculate your claim limitation date

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by the solicitor panel are settled out of court.

Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?

No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.

Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

Can I get an early compensation payment?

If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

An interim payment is a partial settlement of your claim which is paid before your claim is concluded. The amount you receive in interim payments would then be deducted from your final compensation settlement or award.

Read more about interim compensation payments.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert