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Can Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Your Personal Injury Claim?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018By Richard Alexander

In most states, wearing a seatbelt is mandatory. California’s seatbelt law requires car passengers to wear seatbelts unless they have a medical disability that interferes with seat belt use or they are employed in certain occupations (such a mail delivery). Children who are too small to wear standard seat belts must be placed in child car seats according to the law. Failure to comply with seatbelt laws can result in momentary penalties, which can be steep depending on the violation.

But what happens in an accident when the driver or passenger was not wearing a seatbelt? In California, if you are injured in a car accident, you may still bring an action against the negligent driver despite your failure to wear a seatbelt. The law specifically provides that the failure to wear a seatbelt does not preclude a personal injury claim.

Nevertheless, the injured party’s failure to wear a seatbelt would be a factor in the allocation of fault between the parties. Therefore, a jury must consider whether injuries could have been prevented or whether they would have been less severe if the injured party had worn a seatbelt. If the court determines that certain injuries might not have occurred, these can be exempted from the total recovery amount.

The party who is alleged to be negligent has the burden of demonstrating that: (i) any person exercising ordinary care would have worn a seatbelt and (ii) wearing a seatbelt would have precluded the injuries suffered by the other party or would have lessened the extent of the injuries. The negligent party must prove these elements in order to be absolved of liability. To establish these facts, the defendant typically consults experts that can testify regarding the second element.  

California is comparative negligence state. This means that a plaintiff can recover in a negligence claim even if the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the resulting injury. In this case, the plaintiff’s damages are reduced based on his degree of negligence in the situation. Therefore, if the injured party is deemed partially responsible, comparative negligence law provides that the compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault the injured party bears for not wearing a seat belt.

If you or a member of your family was injured in an auto accident, contact Alexander Law Group, LLC. Our exceptional personal injury lawyers will be sure you get the maximum compensation possible. Call 888.777.1776, or contact us online.

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