Can You Recover in a Car Accident if you Weren’t Wearing a Seat Belt?
In many car accident cases, negligent drivers (defendants) try to ascribe some responsibility for the accident or injuries on the victim. This is normally done by asserting that a driver that was injured did or failed to do something that contributed, in part, to the accident, or to the severity of the his/her injuries.
This concept is called “comparative negligence.” When a victim is comparatively negligent, the victim’s award is reduced by the percentage that the jury finds that they caused or contributed to their own accident or injuries.
For example, if you are in a motor vehicle accident, and a jury later says that your injuries are valued at $100,000, but you were 20% liable because you were not careful yourself, your award would be reduced by the judge to $80,000, meaning, your award would be reduced by the percentage you are found at fault.
The Seat Belt Defense
The seat belt defense is relevant to comparative negligence. It is common knowledge that a seat belt can save lives and reduce injury. Yet, for some reason, people continue to drive without wearing their seat belt.
Wearing a seatbelt is not only a safe practice, but also legally required. However, the failure to wear a seat belt does not mean that you are prevented from asserting that the tortfeasor was negligent.
A jury will consider the failure to wear a seat belt as comparative negligence. The jury will then determine how much of your injury could have been avoided or lessened, had you been wearing your seatbelt.
In some cases, a jury may find that you would not have been injured at all had you been wearing a seat belt, which would prevent you from recovering damages. Conversely, the jury could find that you would have been injured in the same way even had you been wearing a seat belt. Although seat belts are vital to driver safety, there are cases, especially in catastrophic accidents, where a seat belt would have made little or no difference.
The Use of Experts
Of course, asking what would have happened had a driver been wearing a seat belt is a hypothetical question. That means that there must usually be some expert testimony to show that a seat belt would not have prevented a particular kind of injury in order for a victim to avoid having damages reduced. In other words, an expert must testify that the failure to wear a seat belt made no, or little, difference in the severity of your injuries.
Contact the West Palm Beach car accident attorneys at Celeste Law Firm today to discuss ways to help you recover damages for any injury you may have sustained and to help you prepare for defenses the insurance company may try to assert.