Can I Recover Damages if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt at the Time of a Car Accident?

closeup of car accident

Although every driver has been advised to wear his or her seat belt every time they are in a moving vehicle and laws have been enacted in all but one of the United States, there are individuals who still choose not to wear their seat belt. There is, however, a powerful reason beyond your own safety that you should wear a seatbelt every time; not doing so may impact your ability to receive compensation if you are injured in an accident. As Deerfield Beach personal injury attorneys Zimmerman & Frachtman will tell anyone who asks: it is better to wear a seatbelt and not get into an accident than to take the risk of not wearing one.

Although the “seat belt defense” is limited to 16 states, the impact of not wearing a seatbelt can affect compensation in many more. In some jurisdictions, the “seat belt defense” is a controversial topic; some see it as harsh, while others point out that the law requires wearing a seatbelt, and therefore those who violate the law should face some consequence to their actions. The defense does not only apply to drivers who seek damages; it applies equally to passengers who are injured in collisions and seek compensation for their injuries.

In general, the seat belt defense is related to the ways in which a particular jurisdiction’s liability laws work. Liability analysis seeks to ascertain who is at fault for causing a particular injury or damage—so for instance, if a car is involved in a rear-end collision, the driver will try to establish liability for the head trauma he suffered belongs to the striking car’s driver. However, if the injured driver was not wearing a seatbelt, the insurance company or its attorney may argue that some or all of the fault belongs to the injured party. That factor can be taken into account by the judge, the claims adjuster, or the jury when making a determination of damages—with the end result being reduced compensation.

Of course, the majority of US states do not have this defense as a possibility. However, even if you are not living in one of the states that allows this defense to be used, most states use the principle of comparative or contributory negligence to determine how to apportion damages among liable parties. Some states do not allow the information to even be brought up as evidence in the trial. This is not foolproof however, as there are other ways in which a driver’s contribution of negligence—in this case, by not obeying a law designed to protect individuals in accidents—can impact the amount of compensation they receive. In some states where the defense is allowed, the percent to which the damages can be reduced is a maximum of 15%.

Every case is different; if you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a car accident, it is wise to retain the services of an experienced car accident attorney. Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys Zimmerman & Frachtman have the skills and knowledge to assist you in your claim. We take pride in offering free consultations, and we do not charge for services unless we win your case.

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