Seatbelts are mandated by law and are simply a good practice. If you are in a car accident, the seat belt has a significant chance of preventing or reducing the severity of your injuries. If you do not use one and are hurt in an accident, different states handle lawsuits differently, so you may want to consult with legal counsel on what to do.
If you were injured in a car accident while not wearing your seatbelt, this does not prohibit you from filing a lawsuit or an insurance claim against the at-fault individual. Of course, the first thing you should do is contact emergency services and follow up with medical treatment.
You should also contact an accident lawyerto ensure that the situation is handled properly and your rights are protected. He can talk to insurance representatives, healthcare professionals, eye witnesses, the police, and others to file a claim and recover compensation for your medical expenses and other damages.
Is not wearing a seat belt considered negligence?
Once you file a lawsuit alleging that another driver was at fault for your injury, the driver can answer that you are also responsible because you chose not to wear a seat belt. Comparative negligence is a rule in tort law that allocates damages based on each party to an accident’s proportion of responsibility. Essentially, this rule states that because negligence is shared among the parties, a plaintiff’s award of damages should be reduced by the percent of responsibility they contributed to the accident. In some cases, comparative negligence can prevent you from obtaining any compensation.
Under various state laws, you can still recover compensation as long as you are not more liable than other negligent drivers. The amount of compensation will simply be reduced based on your percentage of fault. If the court determines that your liability exceeds 50 percent, or in some states if it is at least 50 percent or greater, you could be denied compensation entirely.
When you are not wearing a seatbelt, other drivers will try to show that you are more responsible for your injury than they are because you did not protect yourself. They will say that not wearing a seat belt is more critical than colliding with your vehicle.
They may argue that if you wore your seatbelt, you would not be injured or your injuries would be less severe. It is up to your attorney to refute this claim. You must adhere to the Pennsylvania Seat Belt Law because it can protect you from more than injuries, but could also mean the difference between receiving compensation for your injuries or receiving nothing at all.
How does not wearing a seat belt affect your compensation claim?
In most states, the driver and his passengers must wear seat belts. In some cases, wearing a seatbelt has nothing to do with the severity of the injury from a car accident. In these cases, not wearing a seat belt should not reduce your claim, at least not too much.
Not wearing a seatbelt, however, generally increases the severity of the injury or the chance of death in a car accident. If you have faced injuries due to not wearing a seatbelt, it may affect the amount of compensation you receive. These rules may affect your claim as follows:
- If the cause of your injury is 51 percent or more because you did not wear your seatbelt, you may not be able to recover compensation from the negligent driver.
- If the cause of your injury due to not wearing a seat belt is less than 51%, you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver, but the amount of the settlement could be reduced by the percentage you are found to be at fault. This amount may still be significant.
- Even if you cannot file a claim for your injury, you can still file a property damage claim against the negligent driver or your own insurance company if you have purchased collision insurance.
- Even if you are at fault for causing the injury, you may still file a claim under your medical insurance to pay for your medical expenses if you purchase this insurance.
What Happens If the Plaintiff Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
Some states have what is referred to as a seat belt defense that can be used in motor vehicle accidents to defend against liability in motor vehicle accidents. Other states, like Pennsylvania, do not permit defendants to use the seat belt defense to deny or limit liability. It can, however, be used as evidence to calculate damages. Depending on the circumstances and the evidence provided at trial, the damages may be reduced. This is why having a car accident attorney on your side is so important.
The defendant has the responsibility to prove that the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. The defendant must then prove which injuries were caused by the accident and which were caused or worsened by not wearing a seat belt. The defendant establishes that:
- The injury would occur regardless of whether the injured party wears a seat belt or not.
- An additional or aggravated injury, which may have been prevented or reduced by the use of seat belts.
Suppose there is sufficient evidence to allow the judge or jury to divide the victim’s injury and damages by isolating the seat belt damage. In that case, they will have to determine the value of the damages. This can be a complex assessment. Accident injury attorneys can use:
- An accident reconstruction expert to explain how the accident happened, what force affected the plaintiff’s vehicle, location, and intensity, and how the plaintiff was impacted within the car, and
- Medical experts to explain how injuries were caused by the initial collision and which injuries would be avoided or mitigated if seat belts were used.
A reputable attorney can play an essential role in obtaining a proper settlement. They are ready to handle all proceedings and will work with you to reach an agreement.
If you or a loved one are involved in an accident, were not wearing a seat belt, and are injured in the accident, you should seek legal advice to protect your rights. A competent Philadelphia Car Accident Attorney will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to ensure that you get the monetary award you deserve.