Do I Still Have a Claim If I Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
Seat belts save lives and prevent injuries. However, if you were injured in an accident caused by another party and were not wearing a seat belt, that does mean you cannot file a claim. In California, you may file such a claim, although it is likely that any awards for damages are reduced.
California is a comparative negligence state. That means it is possible to recover compensation in a personal injury case even if the plaintiff bore some responsibility for their injuries. The ability of a person not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact to still sue the at-fault driver is a prime example of how comparative negligence works.
The Los Angeles car accident lawyers at Ellis Injury Law protect your rights and will help you receive compensation for your injuries.
California seat belt law
Under California law, all occupants must have their seat belts fastened when a vehicle is moving. Passengers in the rear seats are included. There are exceptions to the law, including:
- Those with certain medical conditions
- Taxi passengers
- Garbage truck workers
- Mail and newspaper deliverers
- Other jobs in which constantly leaving the vehicle is required.
Penalties for not wearing a seat belt include fines of $162 for adults and $490 if a minor under age 16 is not properly restrained.
California law specifically states that not wearing a seat belt does not prevent victims from filing accident claims.
Seat belt defense
An insurance company will use the “seat belt defense,” presenting evidence that not wearing a seatbelt contributed to injury severity. The same holds true in a courtroom if a personal injury lawsuit goes to trial. The defendant must prove that the vehicle had seat belts and it was unreasonable for the plaintiff not to use them.
A car accident lawyer knows how to expertly rebut the seat belt defense. For example, the client did not cause the crash by failing to wear a seat belt. It was the at-fault party’s negligence, not that of the person not wearing a seat belt, that caused the accident. It is also hard to determine the sort of injuries sustained had the victim worn a seat belt.
If the case goes to trial, the insurance company’s or defendant’s attorney will argue that the injuries were solely or primarily due to the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt. That is why it is imperative to choose a seasoned car accident attorney to represent you and mitigate this argument.
Compensation and Percentage of Fault
Compensation, also known as damages, for those injured in a motor vehicle accident because of another party’s negligence include:
- Medical expenses, current, and future
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
If the case goes to trial, the jury might assign a percentage of fault to the plaintiff based on how wearing a seat belt may have lessened their injuries. Any award is reduced by that percentage.
If the jury awards damages of $100,000 for pain and suffering but deems the plaintiff 20% at fault, then the amount is reduced to $80,000.
Contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer
If you or someone who know was seriously injured in a car accident through another driver’s negligence, even if the injured party was not wearing a seat belt, you need the services of the experienced car accident attorneys at Ellis Injury Law. Schedule a complimentary consultation and case evaluation by calling or texting 24/7, or complete our online form.
We will review your claim and discuss your options. Since all cases are taken on a contingency basis, you pay no fee unless you receive compensation. While most claims are settled, our seasoned trial lawyers may bring your case to trial if the insurance company does not agree to a reasonable settlement. We have recovered more than $350 million for clients in settlements and verdicts.