Have you been injured in a car accident, that was not your fault, while not wearing a seatbelt? You may wonder, “Can I Sue If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?” The simple answer is, yes. Even though the law requires you to wear a seatbelt at all times while in a moving vehicle, you are still able to sue for damages in a car crash if you were not wearing one. However, it is important to note that wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces your chances of serious injury and the other driver’s attorney or insurance will likely use this point to lower the payout you receive.
If you were in an accident, that was not your fault, while failing to wear a seatbelt, contact car accident attorney Beverly R. Caruthers for a free consultation.
The “seatbelt defense” refers to the insurance company’s (or the defendant’s, if you’ve filed a lawsuit in court) use of evidence regarding your failure to wear a seatbelt in connection with the underlying accident. The theory behind the seat belt defense is that, even though you may not have caused the accident itself, your failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to the severity of your car accident injuries.
Not all states allow use of the seat belt defense, and keep in mind that even in states that do allow it, the adjuster is not required to apply it when negotiating a settlement. But the seat belt defense will certainly be on the mind of the adjuster. That’s because if the claim can’t be settled and a lawsuit is filed, the adjuster knows that use of the seat belt defense will be allowed by the court, and will impact how much the insurance company may ultimately have to pay.
The Seat Belt Defense, Comparative Fault, and “Mitigation”
The seatbelt defense overlaps with two additional legal concepts: the “comparative fault” and “mitigation.” (Note: The precise interplay among these concepts depends on the state where the accident occurred.)
Under comparative fault, the amount you can recover for your injuries is reduced by a percentage that reflects your degree of fault for failing to wear a seatbelt. There are two types of comparative fault: “pure comparative fault” and “modified comparative fault.”
In states that follow the “pure” comparative fault rule, each party is responsible for their percentage of fault — no matter what that percentage may be. For example, let’s say your injuries are found to be almost entirely due to your failure to wear a seatbelt. You’re deemed 95% at fault, and the other driver is considered 5% at fault. In that situation, in a “pure” comparative fault state you can recover only 5% of your damages. Under “modified” comparative fault, each party is still responsible for damages in proportion to their own share of fault. but if your share of liability reaches a certain designated percentage (50% or 51% depending on the state), you cannot recover any compensation at all from any other at-fault party.
In some states, including Wisconsin and Iowa, the seat belt defense overlaps with the “mitigation” theory, which says that an injured person has a legal duty to use reasonable efforts to avoid or reduce his or her “damages.” Under this theory, the at-fault driver’s insurer (or attorney) would argue that you wouldn’t have suffered the same injuries if you had worn your seatbelt, and so your financial recovery should be reduced.
Regardless of the legal theory that is relied upon, most states require that the at-fault driver prove a causal connection between your non-use of an available seat belt and the injuries you suffered. It’s no surprise that cases involving the seat belt defense often require a close examination of the medical records and the use of expert witnesses.
Spanish Speaking Car Accident Lawyer in Houston, Texas
Spanish-speaking individuals can have a more difficult time seeking justice in their personal injury cases due to language barriers. This causes them to not take action against those who have left them with financial devastation and physical trauma. At the Law Office of Beverly R. Caruthers, our team refuses to let a language barrier affect your right to justice and compensation. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident and is in need of Spanish-speaking legal advice, our team is here for you.
Personal Injury Law Office in Houston, Texas
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury, experienced loss of income, or are unable to work due to a car accident, you can benefit from the services of a Houston car accident expert in your personal injury case. Whether you missed work due to an injury or due to not having access to a vehicle, Attorney Beverly R. Caruthers can help you!