Wearing a seat belt is one crucial way to save the lives of backseat passengers. However, current research suggests other important safety features are lacking, making backseat riders more vulnerable to injuries when involved in a crash. In fact, backseat passengers are 46 percent more likely to die in a car accident than those riding in the front seat. Therefore, how does backseat occupant protection fall short, and is there anything second and third-row passengers can do to protect themselves?
Research on Backseat Passengers and Injuries
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) analyzed various vehicle safety systems and found many features protecting passengers in the front seat nonexistent in back rows. After reviewing crash data from accidents where rear-seat occupants were seriously or fatally injured, the IIHS found chest injuries a common occurrence caused by excessive force on shoulder belts.
In many cases, people in the backseat were injured more significantly than those in the front, suggesting backseat restraints were less adequate. Although front seat belts have “seat belt limiters” that reduce the force of impact above a certain threshold during a crash, backseat seat belts do not have this technology. Seat belt limiters work in conjunction with airbags and belt tensioners to prevent upper body injuries in a collision. IIHS research confirmed that in the crashes studied, chest injuries were the most serious and fatal among backseat passengers.
Possible Solutions to Improve Backseat Safety
Auto experts proposed various solutions to better protect backseat passengers and prevent catastrophic chest injuries during a crash. They include the following:
- Force limiters: Tiny metal rods built into seat belt retractors that allow some webbing to spool out before forces get too high
- Inflatable seat belt: To spread the force of impact out across the torso and keep the chest from bearing the brunt of a collision
- Backseat airbag: An airbag engaged from the back of the front seat would reduce the impact of the seat belt and protect a backseat passenger’s head in a crash
Head Injuries Among Backseat Passengers
The IIHS study found head injuries to be the second most common injury after chest injuries for backseat occupants. In many cases, these injuries were not survivable. In nonfatal collisions, it is speculated that passengers were injured after hitting their heads on the vehicle’s interior, but a lack of detailed crash data made it impossible to confirm this suspicion. To better protect backseat occupants from all types of injuries, the IIHS recommends automakers conduct crash tests designed specifically to evaluate and improve backseat protection.
What to Do If You are Injured in a Car Accident
If you are a passenger in a vehicle and are injured in an accident, you may consider bringing a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the crash. For personal injury claims sustained in a car crash, the injured person must prove liability and damages.
Liability for a Car Accident
When it comes to a car accident, liability refers to who is at-fault. For example, if a driver was distracted by their phone, they are liable for the accident and any injuries incurred as a result.
If the driver denies fault, liability can be established using witness accounts of the accident, footage captured by nearby cameras, and damage to the vehicles that indicate how the crash occurred.
Damages Resulting from a Car Accident
Damages are essentially financial compensation intended to make the plaintiff whole after an injury. There are different types of damages depending on the type of accident, the circumstances surrounding the plaintiff’s injuries, and the laws in the state where the accident occurred. Generally, the following types of damages are available in a personal injury claim:
- Emotional distress: A serious crash can have a lasting psychological impact, including post-traumatic stress disorder, which is usually confirmed by a professional’s diagnosis.
- Loss of companionship/Loss of consortium: This is brought by the loved one of a family member who perished in an accident to compensate for the loss of their relationship.
- Lost wages: This helps to supplement or replace an individual’s income when their injuries prohibit them from working.
- Medical expenses: Treatment for injuries can be very costly. In some cases, compensation is awarded for hospitalization, surgery, and physical therapy to treat injured claimants.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is difficult to quantify, but damages are generally calculated based on how long the victim needs to recover, the medication prescribed for their injuries, and how pain and suffering impacts a person’s overall quality of life.
- Punitive damages: Not every state permits punitive damages, but where they are allowed, they are assigned to penalize a defendant for especially reckless behavior and deter them and others from repeating it.
- Wrongful death: Wrongful death lawsuits are brought by the survivors of accident victims killed by another’s negligent act or behavior. Spouses can bring a wrongful death suit, as well as parents of minor children. In some cases, siblings, cousins, and even distant relatives can sue for wrongful death.
Backseat Passengers and Car Accident Claims
Individuals who are not driving a car, but are a passenger during a crash, have options for filing a claim to recover compensation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, you may be able to file a claim against the following:
Your Insurance Company
Because you were not driving and were not in your own vehicle at the time of the accident, this option may not be so obvious. If you drive in New Jersey, you should have Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which you can use to pay your medical bills. Unfortunately, because you file a claim, your insurance rates will likely go up. Therefore, it you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer to determine the best course of action to minimize your costs and maximize your compensation.
Your Driver and Their Insurance Company
This is an option even if this driver was not at-fault for the accident. The simplest way to recover compensation is through their PIP benefits. PIP is no-fault insurance designed just for car accident injuries, which can sometimes be omitted from health insurance policies. In New Jersey, every insurance policy must carry PIP.
The Other Driver and Their Insurance Company
This option applies to accidents involving multiple drivers. Unfortunately, if multiple people were injured in your accident, their policy limits may not be enough to cover everyone’s expenses. Also, proving liability, or fault, in a crash involving several cars can be more challenging and take weeks, if not months, to do. Because laws and guidelines regarding insurance and accident claims can vary by state, it is always best to consult with a local car accident lawyer regarding the best legal course of action.
Things to Remember If You are a Passenger in a Car Accident
Any accident is stressful, even a minor fender bender. Knowing what do to after a crash can help ease your anxiety and help the claim process go smoothly.
- First, seek medical attention for anyone with possible injuries.
- If the car is drivable, have the driver move safely away from traffic.
- Contact the police and file a report.
- Exchange contact information with involved parties, including witnesses.
- Document the scene with photos.
- Contact your car accident lawyer for guidance.
If you are involved in a car accident as a passenger, you may be confused about your rights and how to file a claim for compensation. However, you may be entitled to damages for your emotional and physical injuries after a serious crash. To learn more about how to move forward and pursue compensation, schedule an appointment with a trusted car accident lawyer in your area.
Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Protect the Rights of Injured Passengers
Backseat passengers have the right to recover compensation if they are injured in a car accident. The skilled Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law will review the details of your case and recommend the most practical legal course of action to achieve a positive outcome. To learn more about our history of success and how we can help you, call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Centrally located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.