Understanding the Seat Belt Defense in Auto Accident Cases

Not wearing a seat belt can affect your quest for compensation after an auto accident. The defendant can argue that you contributed to your injuries. Below is an overview of the seat belt defense.

Seat Belt Enforcement Laws

States have different state laws when it comes to seat belt use. Here are some of the common laws:

  • Many states require front-seat occupants to belt up
  • Some states require only adult front seat passengers to belt up
  • Some states have enforcement laws for both front and back seat occupants
  • New Hampshire doesn't have seat belt enforcement laws for adults

You must be conversant with the applicable laws whenever you are driving out of state. To be on the safe side, always belt up whenever you are in a moving vehicle.

Admissibility of Seat belt Evidence

Auto accident defendants love to bring up the seat belt defense if they discover the plaintiff wasn't wearing the belt at the time of the accident. A defendant might seek to dismiss your case or reduce your damages if you didn't wear the seat belt during your accident.

However, not all states will allow the seat belt defense as evidence during the trial. Some states argue that not wearing a seat belt cannot cause an accident, and the liable defendant should pay for their actions. Some states don't have statutory laws for the admissibility of seat belt defense but handle their admissibility on a case-by-case basis.

The Implication of Not Belting Up

Whether or not your state has strict laws on seat belt defense, not wearing a seat belt can affect your auto accident claim. The effect can even manifest itself during negotiations before your case goes to trial. Below are the three main ways not wearing a seat belt can hurt your case.

Shows Negligence

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing seat belts reduces the risk of fatal accidents or the severity of injuries in auto accidents. An auto accident defendant can argue that you showed a classic case of negligence by not wearing a seat belt.

Violates Traffic Laws

In states that enforce seat belt wearing, the police can cite you for driving without using a seat belt. Citations for traffic violations are prime fodder for auto accident defendants seeking to weaken plaintiff cases.

Contributes To Injury

Lastly, the defendant can also argue that your failure to wear a seat belt contributed to the severity of your injuries. Comparative or contributory negligence will then come into play if the defendant succeeds with their claim. This means you can lose your case or get reduced damages depending on the laws of your state.

The law doesn't automatically prevent you from filing an auto accident claim if you didn't have a seat belt on at the time of the crash. Consult an auto accident lawyer to help you figure out how to get your compensation despite such complications.

For help with a personal injury case, contact a law office like Buckley  Law Office.

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