Proving fault in a car accident can be complicated no matter how big or small the collision might have been. If the injured victim was not wearing a seat belt, it may complicate the case even more. If you were injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you can still make a personal injury claim even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt. However, the amount you can recover may be reduced because of what’s called the “seat belt defense.”
What is the Seat Belt Defense?
The seat belt defense decreases the amount of damages a claimant can recover if they weren’t wearing a seat belt. Buckling up is the law, and failing to wear a seat belt is, technically, a violation of the law. Supporters of the seat belt defense argue that there should be repercussions for violating this law.
The seat belt defense has yet to be uniformly adopted in the United States. At this point in time, only approximately 16 states will accept this defense. This defense is not only limited to drivers seeking damages, but passengers as well.
How the Seat Belt Defense Works
The primary purpose of the seat belt defense is not necessarily to punish the injured victim, but to provide a more realistic damage award.
Let’s say a driver is hit from behind and suffers head trauma. If the injured driver was not wearing a seat belt, the defense could argue that his or her injuries may not have been as severe had they been wearing a seat belt.
Because the driver was not wearing a seat belt, they were not only in violation of the law, but partially to blame for the severity of their injuries. The other driver may still be responsible for the accident, but because the injured driver was not wearing a seat belt, they may be found partially to blame for their injuries.
To put it simply, if you were hurt in an accident and you weren’t wearing your seat belt, you are not completely to blame for your injuries. The majority of states have not adopted the seat belt defense, which means there’s a good chance that your damage award will not be reduced because you were not wearing a seat belt.
In the states that have not adopted this defense, the fact that you were not wearing a seat belt cannot be introduced as evidence during a trial either. Even in states where this defense is permitted, your award can only be reduced by 15%.
If you were in a car accident in the Denver area and have questions about protecting your interests and legal rights, call the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today for a free consultation about your situation.