Failing to buckle up can hurt! One of the major reasons that people are injured or killed in car accidents is because of failure to properly wear seat belts – regardless of who caused the accident. According to the CDC, more than half of the teens (aged 13-19 years) and adults (aged 20-44 years) who died in crashes in 2016 were not buckled up at the time of the crash. Additionally, of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts. In 2017 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives and could have saved an additional 2,549 people if they had been wearing seat belts, according to the NHTSA.

But in addition to increasing your chances of serious injury or death, failing to buckle up can also hurt your opportunity to claim personal injury compensation in San Diego, California.

How Does Seat Belt Use Affect Claims for Compensation?

Car accidents are the most common form of personal injury accidents – meaning the most common type of accident where one party’s negligence causes another party’s harm, according to AllLaw.

But while personal injury claims usually deal with the negligence of the other party, sometimes accident victims are also partially at fault for their injuries.

So if you’re injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, but you weren’t wearing a seat belt, can you still claim personal injury compensation? Will your lack of seat belt use be considered negligence?

According to Nolo, you can still file a car insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit, but your failure to buckle up could significantly impact the amount you can recover. Not wearing a seat belt can also result in fines, even if you were the victim in an accident.

California is a ‘comparative fault jurisdiction’ state, which means that drivers involved in car accidents are allowed to collect damages even if they were partially at fault for the injuries. In California, you can claim damages even if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt. However, it’s likely that the other party (including the other party’s insurance company) will put up a fight and try to use your lack of seat belt use against you.

To make it a fair fight, talk with an experienced personal injury attorney right away!

What Will Be Considered Negligence?

In determining whether and to what degree the plaintiff was negligent in causing their own injury, the court will evaluate:

  • Whether a working seat belt was available
  • That a reasonably careful person would have used the seat belt in the given situation
  • That the plaintiff failed to wear a seat belt
  • That the plaintiff’s injuries would be less severe had they worn a seat belt

Tips for Correct Seat Belt Use

Even safe drivers can’t always prevent a car accident, but every driver can take safety precautions that decrease the chances of serious injury or death. One of the easiest ways you can protect yourself from serious injury or death caused by a car accident is to properly wear your seat belt every time you get in your car.

Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. If you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%, according to NHTSA.

Seat belts are the best defense against the hazards you can’t control: impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers. Being completely ejected from a vehicle is almost always deadly, and seat belts act to prevent this.

Remember that airbags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them. Failing to wear your seat belt could mean that you are thrown into a rapidly opening frontal airbag, and such a force can cause serious injuries and even death, according to NHTSA

The NHTSA suggests the following guidelines to buckle up safely and prevent injuries and death:

  • The lap belt and shoulder belt should be secured across the pelvis and rib cage, which are better able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body.
  • Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
  • The lap belt rests across your hips, not your stomach.
  • NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.

Next Steps for Claiming Compensation in California

Were you injured in an accident and you weren’t wearing a seat belt? Are you stressed about your chances of getting compensation? An aggressive attorney can help you claim your full compensation! Not wearing a seatbelt can make your case more complicated, but we’re here for your most complicated cases.