Are You Eligible for Compensation if You Were Not Wearing a Seat belt?
It is common knowledge that seat belts save lives. More than 2500 car fatalities that occurred in 2017 were preventable had the victims buckled up. Yet many people still forget to wear a seat belt when they get into a vehicle, while others simply choose not to.
Common Seat Belt Laws
Traffic laws vary from one state to the other, but all have a common underline when it comes to seat belts. A driver and fellow front-seat passenger should always wear a safety belt. In addition, all minors whether at the front or back should always be buckled. For children who are too young, the driver should have a suitable car seat with proper restrainment serving as a safety belt.
Failure to follow the stipulated seat belt rules in your state will warrant a traffic ticket or fines. But what happens when you are involved in an accident and are not wearing a seat belt? Do you have a claim against the at-fault driver? Does the fact that you were not buckled up negate all possibilities for compensation?
The bottom line is that you are eligible for compensation even in a crash where you were not wearing a seat belt. However, this fact will be a major part of the case and ultimately, influence the amount you receive as a settlement for your injuries.
Insurance companies rely on paramedics and doctor’s reports, along with eyewitnesses to ascertain whether you were restrained in your seat as the accident occurred. When questioned by a medical expert, remain truthful about your wearing (or lack thereof) of a safety belt.
The report is likely to state whether you told the medics about your seat belt state during the accident. Being dishonest about this will hurt your credibility and put your claim at a disadvantage.
Understanding the Seat Belt Defense
In some states, the law allows an insurance company to fight your personal injury claim by citing your failure to wear a safety belt. Here, the defense simply wants to associate the injuries and other damages sustained from the collision as stemming from your negligence.
The ultimate goal of applying the seat belt defense in such a case is to diminish your asking compensation amount.
A favorable aspect of the seat belt defense is that the law prohibits insurance companies from using it to negotiate your compensation. Most insurers will only resort to this defense when a car accident case proceeds to court.
How Can You Challenge the Seat Belt Defense?
It is almost certain that your settlement will suffer major deductions if the insurance company decides to apply the seat belt defense to your case. The only sure way of fighting a seat belt defense is by hiring a personal injury lawyer. How can an attorney help?
A lawyer will explain the legal technicalities of a seat belt defense and the options you have regarding the case. They can also assemble sufficient evidence to prove that the lack of wearing a seat belt did not contribute to the injuries.
The Issue of Comparative Negligence
It is also common for the insurer to find both drivers responsible for the accident and injuries sustained. The final amount you receive in compensation depends on the related laws in your state.
If your state allows pure comparative fault, then you’ll only receive a settlement that is less your percentage fault, regardless of the number.
In modified comparative fault states, the drivers still share fault but there is a significant difference. If you are found to be 51% at fault of causing the accident, you are not eligible for any compensation.