Seat belts definitely save lives and reduce the severity of injuries in a car accident. But seat belts can also inflict their own kinds of injuries — and those aren’t always readily apparent at the scene of an accident.

Here are some of the most common types of seat belt injuries after a car crash:

  • Bruises, abrasions and swelling: Your seat belt may have left you with everything from friction burns on your neck to bruises all across your chest and abdomen. The full extent of the damage may not be visible until there’s been time for swelling to happen.
  • Fractured ribs: Even a relatively minor accident can leave you with fractured ribs. When your vehicle abruptly stops, your body keeps moving — until it’s slammed back into place by the crossbody belt you’re wearing. It may take a few days for you to realize that your pain is worsening, not getting better.
  • Damaged organs: The force from your seat belt or its buckle can lead to deep internal injuries. Severe abdominal pain that develops after your wreck could be a sign of a perforated bowel or damaged spleen, while chest pain could indicate a problem with your heart or lungs — all of which can become a medical crisis.
  • Shoulder and neck injuries: Whiplash injuries are caused by the fact that seat belts only restrain part of your body. Your head and neck are still thrown rapidly forward and back in a wreck. That can lead to serious spinal injuries or damage to the delicate nerve bundles in your neck and armsw.

If you experience any kind of unusual bruising, swelling, weakness, vomiting or trouble breathing after a wreck, get medical attention as soon as possible. You can worry about holding the party responsible for your accident accountable after you’ve recovered.