What Happens if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt in My Car Accident in California?

If you have been in a car accident and you were not wearing a seat belt, you may have risked the amount of damages you can collect. In California, it is illegal for anyone 16 and over to drive or ride in a car without a seat belt. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you to recover compensation if someone else was at fault for the accident.

Even if you were not wearing a seat belt in your accident, you should still follow through with an insurance claim and, if appropriate, a personal injury lawsuit. Know that you likely will not receive the same amount of damages you would have received if you had been wearing a seat belt, and your case could be further complicated in other ways. An experienced attorney can help you with these complications.

How Will My Claim Be Affected?

Directly after your accident, it is imperative to call a police officer to the scene. You likely will receive a ticket for not wearing a seat belt.

When you pursue your personal injury claim, you must understand that any injuries incurred due to your lack of seat belt will likely be excluded from your settlement. The defendant may even argue that all of the injuries that you sustained resulted from your failure to use a seat belt. This can be difficult to prove one way or the other, but it wouldn’t be unusual for the judge or jury to be swayed by your lack of seatbelt.

What About Comparative Negligence?

California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that any injured party can collect damages, even if they were partly at fault. The injured party can collect damages even if they were up to 99% at fault for the accident. The plaintiff’s percentage of fault is subtracted from their settlement total.

If a plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt, it is likely that they may be assigned a percentage of fault for their injuries. This percentage could vary. For instance, a court may find the plaintiff 15% at fault. If the settlement amount totals $50,000, then the plaintiff would receive $42,500 in damages.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

Working with an experienced lawyer will greatly benefit you if you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit for an accident where you were not wearing a seat belt. It’s also helpful to have legal representation when you initially file an insurance claim.

The defendant and their representation will likely try to blame your injuries on your failure to be wearing a seat belt during the accident, so it is imperative you work with a lawyer who can protect your rights and ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation possible.

Additionally, a lawyer will help you navigate the complex criminal justice system. You may not realize it, but you only have two years from the date of the accident to file your claim in California, which is known as the statute of limitations. A lawyer will ensure that your claim is filed in a timely manner. If it is not filed within the two-year statute of limitations, you will likely not be able to recover any damages and your case will be dismissed.

To ensure you receive the compensation you need, consult with a Los Angeles car accident attorney today.