We all know we should wear our seat belts. Not only is it the law, but it also drastically reduces the risk of serious or fatal injuries in the event of a car crash. But what if you were injured in a car accident that was caused by another driver, and you were not wearing your seat belt? Can you still recover for your injuries?
The answer is yes, but how much damage your failure to wear a seat belt will do to your case will vary based on what state has jurisdiction over your case.
When we talk about negligent driving, we could be referencing speeding, driving while under the influence, or texting. If you are in a car collision, and the other driver was behaving negligently, you would have the right to sue that driver for the injuries you sustained as a result of their careless and dangerous driving. But what if you were injured more severely because you did not have your seat belt fastened at the time?
In this scenario, the other driver’s negligence was the cause of the accident, but your failure to follow the seat belt law, and the recommended safety practice of wearing a seat belt led to a more severe injury.
Undoubtedly, the negligent driver will want to highlight your lack of a seat belt as a way to lessen their own liability, and depending on the jurisdiction, they might be able to do so. In states that practice “comparative liability,” the negligence of the person filing the lawsuit can be used to lessen the liability of the individual being sued. Thus, if the court determined that your injuries, while caused by the accident, were 40% worse and costlier than they would have been if you had worn your seat belt, then you would get 40% less of a settlement. So, if your injuries cost you $100,000, you would only be able to collect $60,000.
There are certain injuries that a seat belt might not be able to prevent, and in these cases, your lawyer could argue that your failure to wear a seat belt was irrelevant and should not impact your settlement.
There are also states that have enacted a “seat belt defense.” In these cases, a plaintiff who failed to wear his or her seat belt would face a reduction in the amount of damages awarded, even if the defendant’s negligence was the clear cause of the accident.
There are some few jurisdictions that do not allow a person’s failure to wear a seat belt to be used as evidence against them in a negligence case, but these states are in the minority.
Regardless of whether you can or cannot recover from an accident if you fail to wear a seat belt, the best action to take is to wear one anyway, and prevent yourself from having to figure out how much of the responsibility you bear as a result of your own negligence. However, if you have already suffered injuries as the result of a car accident, where you did not have a seat belt on, contact a seasoned attorney to discuss your case and to potentially seek compensation for your injuries.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car collision, contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP today. Our experienced car accident attorneys can advise you on the process and how they will work to pursue compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, as well as other damages suffered in a car accident through no fault of your own. Call for a free consultation at 516-358-6900.