The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately 90 percent of vehicle occupants in recent years use a seat belt and that seat belts save almost 15,000 lives each year. However, failing to wear a seat belt is still a significant factor in many vehicle-related deaths, as 47 percent of people killed in vehicle accidents in 2017 were not wearing a seat belt at the time. Even if you survive a car accident in which you were not wearing a seat belt, you may experience serious injuries resulting in costly medical expenses and a lasting impact on your quality of life. Furthermore, your failure to wear a seat belt may actually result in less compensation in a personal injury case.
California law requires vehicle occupants to wear a seat belt under most circumstances in recognition that doing so is the most effective way to save lives in the event of an accident. If you are wearing a seat belt and driving responsibly and you are involved in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may be able to reduce or avoid serious injuries entirely. If you are seriously injured under these circumstances, you can make a strong claim that the other driver was completely at fault for the accident and seek full compensation for any damages resulting from your injuries.
If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, however, the situation can be more complicated because of California’s seat belt defense law. Even if the other driver was fully at fault for the accident, he or she may be able to argue that you were partially at fault for your injuries because you failed to wear a seat belt as required under California law. He or she will need to make the case that you reasonably should have been wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident and that wearing your seat belt would have prevented or reduced your injuries.
It is important to note that this does not mean you can never receive compensation if you were not wearing a seat belt. California operates under comparative negligence law, meaning that the other driver may owe you compensation if he or she is found to have been more responsible for your injuries than you were. By gathering evidence from the scene of the accident and working with an experienced personal injury attorney, you can make the case that the other driver bears greater responsibility, or that wearing a seat belt would not have prevented the specific injuries you experienced. However, failing to wear a seat belt will almost always reduce your compensation to some extent, and may even cause you to lose your life.
If you have been injured in an accident in which you were not wearing a seat belt, hiring a personal injury attorney as soon as possible gives you the best chance of ensuring that you receive some compensation. Attorney John J. Garvey, III offers free consultations to learn about the details of your case and advise you as to how you should proceed. As your case progresses, he can help you collect evidence to bolster your claim and stand up for you against insurance companies that may try to minimize your payout. Call a Santa Clara County car accident lawyer today at 408-293-7777.
While this website provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with the attorney, please call at 408-293-7777 or complete the intake form below.