I DID NOT WEAR MY SEAT BELT

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A car accident victim may be able to pursue compensation for costs incurred following the accident by filing a claim against the negligent driver or the driver’s car insurance company.  However, you may be asking yourself the questions, “What if I did not wear my seatbelt?  How does this affect my claim?”  The truth is that failure to wear a seatbelt may, but does not necessarily, affect the victim’s right to compensation.  Thus, before hitting the roads, always be sure to buckle up.  Doing so may protect both your safety and your legal rights. 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident and would like to learn more about rights and remedies that may be available to you, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive a free case evaluation with one of our experienced car accident lawyers today.

SEATBELT STATISTICS

Wearing a seatbelt can save lives.  Recent data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proves just as much.  Below are several important statistics regarding seatbelt safety in the United States.

  • Seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017.
  • Of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts.
  • A total of 22,697 drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018.
  • More than half (range: 51%-60%) of teens (13-19 years) and adults aged 20-44 years who died in crashes in 2018 were not buckled up at the time of the 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%.
  • More than 2.2 million drivers and passengers were treated in the emergency department as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2018.
  • Non-fatal crash injuries to drivers and passengers resulted in almost $62 billion in lifetime medical and work loss costs in 2017.

WHAT TO DO AFTER BEING INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT

1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Car accidents can result in a wide range of injuries and can be particularly severe in cases where seatbelts were not used.  Thus, the first thing you should do following a car accident is to seek medical attention.  If you can drive, visit a nearby emergency room or urgent care center.  However, it is typically advisable to dial 911 and stay put while paramedics travel to you.

2. Report the Accident

When you are feeling well and up to the task, be sure to report the accident to local law enforcement or health care officials.  When filling out the report, try to be as detailed as possible, including bits of information such as where the accident occurred, how it occurred, and what types of injuries you sustained.

3. Call a Personal Injury Attorney

Consult with a car accident attorney before accepting any settlement offers or taking any legal action.  A consultation with an attorney may provide you with insight as to how the claim filing process works and what rights and remedies may be available to you.  If necessary, an attorney may begin the process of filing a claim against the at-fault party or their insurance company.  

UNDERSTANDING THE CLAIM FILING PROCESS

You have just been injured in a car accident.  Now you are left wondering how you are going to pay for having your injuries treated.  If the accident was caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless acts, several options for compensation may be available. 

If the at-fault driver has insurance, you may be able to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.  After a claim is filed, a claims adjuster will be responsible for investigating the accident.  This task typically involves determining how the accident occurred, determining who was at fault, and determining the nature and extent of your injuries.  It is important to remember that the claims adjuster works for the insurance company, not for you.  Thus, when discussing the accident with the claims adjuster, be cautious of admitting any fault or saying anything else that could impact the value of your claim. 

When the claims adjuster has concluded his or her investigation, the findings of the investigation will be reported back to the insurance company.  At this point, the insurance company will either deny your claim or offer to settle your claim for a certain amount.  In many cases, the insurance company’s initial settlement offer is far lower than the claim’s actual value.  Insurance companies utilize this “lowball” tactic in hopes that desperate claimants will accept any amount of money to have cash on hand as quickly as possible. 

However, it is important to remember that this settlement offer can be negotiated.  Yet, many claimants simply do not have the time, patience, or experience to effectively negotiate with billion-dollar insurance companies.  Thus, consulting with an experienced car accident injury attorney may put you in a better position to receive the full value of your claim.

HOW FAILURE TO WEAR A SEATBELT CAN AFFECT YOUR CLAIM

You have been injured in a car accident and have begun the process of recovering compensation for your injuries by filing a claim.  The at-fault party and their insurance company are trying to avoid having to pay the full value of your claim by arguing that your failure to buckle up contributed to your injuries.  Now what?

This argument often made by at-fault drivers and their insurance companies is colloquially referred to as the “seatbelt defense.”  Essentially, the seatbelt defense allows the at-fault driver or the insurance company to argue that you, the victim, should not be entitled to the full value of your claim because even though you did not cause the accident, you contributed to the extent and severity of your own injuries by failing to wear a seatbelt. 

It is important to remember, however, that different states apply different rules when it comes to making a seatbelt defense argument.  For example, listed below are several states that do not have a seatbelt defense in place:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

In contrast, the following states do have some type of policy or mechanism in place that could result in a reduction of a car accident victim’s damages for failure to wear a seatbelt:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Thus, it is important to remember that the location of the accident will significantly impact the rights, remedies, and relief that may be available to a car accident victim. 

It is also important to remember that that may be reduced or eliminated even in states that do not have a seatbelt defense in place.  This is because many states have “comparative negligence” laws that reduce a victim’s damages in accordance with the victim’s percentage of fault.  Thus, for example, if you suffered $100,000 worth of damages but were found to be 50% at fault, your damages may be reduced by one-half or entirely eliminated, depending on which jurisdiction you are in. 

The bottom line is that failure to wear a seatbelt can, but does not necessarily, affect the compensation that may be available to you following an accident.  Other factors must also be considered, including the state where the accident occurred, the nature of the accident, and the parties involved.  A consultation with an experienced car accident attorney may help you further understand your situation and how your actions, or inactions, affect your rights, remedies, and relief.

TYPES OF CAR ACCIDENT COMPENSATION

Putting aside topics such as the seatbelt defense and comparative negligence for a second, it is also important to understand the general types of damages that may be available to a car accident victim.  The damages that may be awarded to a car accident victim can be separated into two general categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages is the broad term used to refer to objective, quantifiable costs incurred by a car accident victim following a wreck.  In most car accident cases, this class of damages may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Pharmacy bills
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Lost income
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Property damage

On the other hand, non-economic damages is the term used to describe the subjective, intangible, difficult-to-quantify costs incurred by a car accident victim.  Because non-economic damages cannot be added up on paper, this class of damages is typically evaluated by the jury in a lawsuit.  Types of non-economic damages in a car accident case may include:

CONTACT A ZINDA LAW GROUP CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY TODAY

Zinda Law Group has a team of experienced car accident attorneys ready and willing to enforce your rights following a car accident.  In addition to years of experience navigating and settling car accident claims, we also have access to a wide range of resources which may be used to strengthen your claim’s merit and value.  Allow us to handle your claim and protect your rights while you devote your time and energy to recovering as quickly as possible.

Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford excellent legal representation.  That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case.  That's our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.

To learn more about filing a claim and what our team of car accident attorneys may do for you, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation. Check out our blog for more helpful resources.

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