Seatbelt Injury Compensation

Seatbelt injury claims

Seatbelts: they save lives. They are crucial to most people’s safety on a day to day basis. The hefty penalties that apply for failing to wear them or making sure your passengers do too reflect how important these devices are to our survival on the roads. Currently in Queensland, fines sit at $391 and 3 demerit points for drivers and passengers 16 years and older, with the driver subject to fines for each unrestrained passenger.

The statistics back this up: seatbelts prevent the chances of death in a motor vehicle accident by up to 45% and prevent serious injury by 50%.

In Queensland, an average of 31 people die each year and 166 are seriously injured as a result of not wearing seatbelts. With recent research showing up to 8% of Queenslanders still drive without seatbelts, it is obvious that some of us still do not appreciate the risks. Even an accident at speed of 40km/hr is capable of an impact equivalent to falling from a 2-storey building.

Of course, the general rule is that injuries resulting from not wearing seatbelts are much more severe than injuries from wearing them.

Sometimes, however, things can go wrong - even with these most well-intended apparatus designed to help us survive.

Suffered seatbelt injury in a car accident – can I claim compensation?

If you have been in a car accident that was completely or partially due to another driver’s fault, you can generally claim motor vehicle injury compensation from the compulsory third party insurer of the driver who was at fault for the accident.

The same applies if you are a passenger of an at-fault driver – you can claim against their compulsory third party insurer.

Injured? Get expert advice now: Smith's are Queensland's only 100% risk-free injury compensation lawyers. Insist on our 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' ® promise. Check your rights with no risk or obligations now and talk direct to our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith. Call 1800 266 801 OR  check if you can claim

How is seatbelt injury compensation calculated?

Generally, compensation is calculated by a comparison of your health and lifestyle before the injury, with your state as a result of the injury.

As mentioned earlier, seatbelt injuries would generally be accompanied by other injuries in an accident. It would probably be difficult, in most cases, to try and assess a seatbelt injury on its own.

How much compensation will I receive for a seatbelt related injury?

The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:

  • the severity of the injury: more severe injuries will attract more compensation
  • the age of the patient: young people are likely to receive greater compensation than older people for a similar injury as it will impact their lifestyle and employment for a longer period of time.
  • level of health prior to the incident: an active and healthy person may suffer more from an injury because they are unable to exercise the way they did prior to the accident and may become predisposed to mood disorders and other health conditions they may not have suffered were it not for their injury.
  • pre-incident lifestyle: injured claimants who formerly engaged in activities they can no longer participate in may experience greater a impact from their injuries.
  • occupation: greater compensation will be payable where a person’s ability to work in their former occupation is impacted severely by their injuries.

What costs can I claim for?

A variety of items can be claimed for, including;

General damages:

General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your whiplash injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.

For example, a serious neck injury is rated 16 to 40 with a monetary range of $27,370 to $95,000 whereas a minor cervical spine injury is rated 0 to 4 with a monetary range of $0 to $5,560.

Other elements that can be claimed for include:

  • Medical Costs
  • Rehab Costs such as physio
  • Loss of past income
  • Loss of future income due to reduced ability to earn a wage.
  • Loss of Super
  • Care & Assistance

What if the injured person wasn’t wearing their seatbelt properly in the first place?

The person wearing the seatbelt (or the person responsible for the seatbelt wearer – such as an adult caring for a child) improperly may be shown to have contributed (contributory negligence) to the injury.

The amount that person is shown to be responsible (by a percentage) for improperly wearing the seatbelt is the amount by which compensation they would otherwise be entitled to is reduced.

Josh picks his 3-year-old daughter Caroline up from childcare. In a hurry, he has forgotten her booster seat and so puts her in the back passenger seat. They are in an accident on the way home, and Caroline slips out from underneath the seatbelt upon impact. Injuries include severe bruising to her face, as well as a broken arm from the impact against the front passenger seat.
In this scenario, while Josh would still lay claim against the CTP insurer of the at-fault driver, the insurer would argue that Josh’s responsibility for his daughter’s injury was at a significant percentage. If this claim was successful, the amount that Josh would be entitled to receive in compensation if he had not been careless in securing his daughter for the ride home will be reduced by that percentage.

What about faulty seatbelts?

In this case, if

  • You are injured as a result of a faulty seatbelt; and
  • Your injury is worse than it would have been if the seatbelt was not faulty,

you might be able to claim against the vehicle / seatbelt supplier, or – if the seatbelt has been altered or replaced – the person carrying out those services.

Generally, where a seatbelt has been shown to prevent more serious injury or even death, this will be a factor for consideration when looking at any injuries relating to the seatbelt use in isolation (if this is possible).

Injured? Get expert advice now: Smith's are Queensland's only 100% risk-free injury compensation lawyers. Insist on our 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' ® promise. Check your rights with no risk or obligations now and talk direct to our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith. Call 1800 266 801 OR  check if you can claim

Claims made for faulty goods – particularly where there is a ‘safety defect’ - may be made under the Australian Consumer Law. This is a different scheme to compensation laws in Queensland. Different tests apply – for example, in relation to the severity of the injury, and the amount of compensation which may be awarded.

Claims like this are complicated. A claim in negligence may also apply on the basis that manufacturers owe a duty of care to consumers.

Other examples of claims include if a supplier changes the product information – for example, changing labels or warranties. This would be a contractual claim. It could also apply to the contract of sale.

However, it can be difficult to claim against suppliers, manufacturers or service-providers. Claims like this are complicated because of 3 main factors:

  • Multiple parties are involved: manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, resellers, insurers, third parties.
  • Proving fault and proving that injuries are caused by that party’s conduct (or, for product liability, defective product with injuries caused by that product).
  • Lengthy processes because one party (for example a retailer) is likely to counter-claim against a supplier.

Seatbelt injuries – how do they occur?

When they do occur, seatbelt injuries tend to be for three main reasons:

  • Another person’s negligence.
  • Defects in the seatbelt itself.
  • Not wearing the seatbelt properly.

Where another person is at fault, for example in the event of a motor vehicle accident, generally any injuries relating to the seatbelt would accompany other injuries.

Most common seatbelt defects include problems with the latch, the release / retractor or the tension detector.

For example, when a seatbelt’s tension triggers during an accident, it can then fail to release afterwards, making injuries already sustained even worse. Or, the latch may fail and as a result, fail to protect the wearer upon impact. After an accident happens, someone – the seatbelt wearer, a third party or an emergency worker - may have problems releasing a seatbelt, which can worsen injuries, too.

Some drivers and passengers can be particularly vulnerable to seatbelt injuries – for example, pregnant women who are not wearing the seatbelt across their hips (and risk harm to their abdomen), or children, who may slip under a seatbelt if they are not yet of a sufficient size to be seated in an adult passenger’s car seat. The law requires appropriate restraints for children up to the age of 7.

Common seatbelt injuries

The seatbelt is designed for the our bodies to spread the impact of an accident across its more robust areas – the chest and pelvis. A range of injuries can commonly result from a seatbelt-related accident, including:

  • Spinal injuries
  • Bruising and burns across the chest / breast
  • Fractured ribs and sternum
  • Fractures leading to a collapsed lung
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Head injuries
  • Spinal, shoulder and neck injuries including whiplash - due to the seatbelt securing the torso, leaving the head and neck to mobilise
  • Abdominal or pelvic injuries
  • Injury to internal organs.

Remember

  • Drivers in Queensland are responsible for themselves and their passengers being restrained at all times.
  • Children up to the age of 7 are required to have appropriate restraints.
  • It is unlikely that a seatbelt injury would occur without some other contributing injuries in the event of a car accident. The same approach to injury compensation in a motor vehicle accident would apply; however –
  • If you have contributed in some way to a seatbelt not appropriately protecting you or your passengers, an insurer will attempt to reduce the amount of compensation payable to you; and
  • Faulty seatbelts – if it is possible to demonstrate that they have in some way worked improperly and made your injuries worse than they would have been – may pave the way for claims under consumer law, negligence or contract.

Next steps - get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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Last update on:
May 29, 2018
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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