Could seat belt use affect your car accident case?

If someone not wearing a seat belt was injured in a car accident, the search for compensation can become complicated but may still be helpful.

In West Virginia using a seat belt can be a matter of life and death. A man killed in a June 2017 accident on Interstate 77 was not wearing a seat belt when his van hydroplaned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in 2015 that more than 50 percent of people aged 13 to 44 who died in a car crash were not buckled up.

It is proven that seat belts can save lives, prevent injuries or hopefully at least make them less serious. The use or non-use of a seat belt can also impact potential personal injury claims.

Failure to wear a seat belt can change the value of the claim

When people are severely injured in an accident despite wearing a seat belt their compensation claims may be significant. However, even when they are not at fault, if you are injured while not wearing a seat belt then your claim may be negatively impacted.

Each accident and situation is unique. For example, a crash might be so severe that an injury outcome is all but guaranteed regardless of seat belt use. This can be especially important, for example, in products liability claim when you or someone in your car is hurt due to some problem with the vehicle. Failure to wear your seat belt will almost surely be used as a defense in those cases.

In other cases an at-fault defendant may argue that your failure to wear a seat belt was to blame for your injuries rather than the other driver's own mistakes. This famously happened in the Tracy Morgan limousine crash. In that case Wal-Mart employed a truck driver who hit the car in which Tracy Morgan and his friends were riding. There was apparently no dispute that the truck driver was at-fault. However, Wal-Mart argued that the passengers' failure to buckle up wholly or partially led to their injuries and, in the case of one limousine passenger, death.

In any West Virginia case involving failure to wear a seat belt a Court may also reduce your awardable trial damages by as much as 5%. In other words, even if the insurance company or some other defendant can't prove that your failure to wear your seat belt was the cause of your injuries you may still lose part of your potential compensation under West Virginia law.

Insurance rates will probably go up

Claim amounts aside, insurance rates are likely to go up for someone who does not wear a seat belt. Even a person who merely gets pulled over and cited for not wearing a seat belt could see monthly insurance payments go up by 3 percent. Safety is obviously the main consideration but there are also legal and financial incentives to wear a seat belt.

Give us a call if you have any questions about seat belt use in a car crash or any other legal question you may have. We are always here to help.