Can I Get Compensated for My Injuries If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt in Texas?
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Seatbelts have been proven to be effective in reducing the extent of injuries in a car accident. In a car crash, seatbelts hold the driver and passengers against their seats, preventing them from flying out of the car. In fact, in addition to reducing fatal injuries by nearly 50%, seatbelts reduce moderate to critical injuries by at least 50%. Therefore, it is important that you wear your seatbelt. However, there are still many car accidents where a driver or a passenger is found not to have worn a seatbelt.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident but was not wearing a seatbelt, you may still be entitled to compensation. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.
Texas Laws Regarding Seatbelts and Accident Claims
Texas law requires drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts while in a vehicle. Though Texans generally follow this law, there are still many who do not wear their seatbelts. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, nearly 94% of Texas motorists put on their seatbelts. To get all Texans to wear their seatbelts, Texas has implemented a “click it or ticket” policy.
If a police officer catches you without a seatbelt, then you may be liable for a fine up to $250. However, not only must you wear a seatbelt, but also any passengers as well. If an officer finds that a passenger in your vehicle is not wearing a seatbelt, you may be liable for a fine as well. If your passenger is an unbelted child, then a heavy fine may be imposed and you may even have criminal liability. In addition to fines for not wearing a seatbelt, you may be limited in the amount of compensation you can seek in a car accident.
How Comparative Negligence Can Affect Your Case
All car accident claims start with finding out who was responsible for the accident. The person who was at fault is often ordered to compensate the victim for his or her injuries. However, under Texas’s modified comparative fault rule, a victim of a car accident who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash may not be able to seek compensation for the full extent of their damages.
Texas uses what is called the modified comparative fault rule. In car accident claims, the modified comparative fault rule states that an individual involved in a car accident can only expect to receive payment from the negligent driver or by his or her insurance company if the negligent driver was at least 51% responsible for the accident.
Three possible scenarios exist under this rule. If you are found 51% or more responsible for the accident, then you cannot seek compensation. If you are found not at all responsible for the accident, then you can seek compensation for the full extent of the damages by the jury or the court. If you are found 50% or less at fault for the accident, then the compensation you are able to seek will be reduced by the percentage of the fault you had.
Is It Still Worth Pursuing a Claim?
Texas’s modified comparative rule does not mean that if you were partially at fault for an accident, you are completely barred from seeking compensation. Even if your lack of wearing a seatbelt led to more serious injuries than you would incurred if you had worn a seatbelt, there are many factors that could show that you were not 51% or more at fault. For instance, if a semi-truck hits your car directly, it is unlikely that wearing a seatbelt would have made an extreme difference in your injuries. In those cases, an experienced lawyer may be able to show that you were less than 51% at fault and thus entitled to compensation.
What to Do Next
1. Report the Accident
In any case, where you are involved in a car accident, you should report the accident to the police. In a car accident, the police will generally write a report of the accident. This report often determines who was at fault. This report will be essential if you decide to file a claim.
2. Collect Evidence
Be sure to always document and retrieve evidence from the scene of the accident. Get the name, address, license number, plate number, and insurance information from all the drivers involved in the accident. Also, if the driver involved in an accident was working for an employer, you should obtain the name and contact information of the driver’s employer.
Witness testimony is often key in car accident cases. If there were witnesses to the accident, you should also get the names and contact information of the witnesses. If any of the witnesses took photographs or video recordings of the accident, ask them for copies. If you yourself have a camera at the scene of the accident, take some photographs of the scene.
3. Get Medical Attention
Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your health is your number one priority. However, by getting medical attention, you also get the benefit of having doctors to record your injuries.
4. Notify Insurance Company
Regardless of whose fault the accident is, you should always contact your insurance company as your insurance company may be able to give you some relief. However, do not make the mistake of talking about who was at fault for the accident. If your insurance company asks for a recorded statement, politely refuse.
5. Get a Lawyer
If you decide to file a claim, it is advisable to get a lawyer. There may be many pitfalls to your case that you cannot anticipate that a lawyer would be experienced with.
How Can a Lawyer Fight for Maximum Compensation?
In car accident claims where the victim was not wearing a seatbelt, an experienced lawyer can show that the victim would have been just as severely injured whether he or she wore a seatbelt or not at the time of the accident.
Elements of Compensation
Compensation is provided for economic losses and non-economic losses.
Economic losses include the following:
- past and future medical bills
- past and future lost wages
- damaged property
- past and future loss of earning capacity
Non-economic losses include the following:
- past and future emotional anguish
- loss of enjoyment of activities
Recall that Texas courts use what is called a modified comparative fault rule when it determines how much compensation a victim receives. What these rule states are that if an injured victim was 51% or more at fault for an accident, then he or she cannot seek compensation.
However, if the victim is found to be 50% or less at fault for the accident, his or her compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault. For instance, if the jury found the damages to be worth $100,000 but also found that you were 50% at fault, then the actual amount of compensation you would be eligible to seek would be $50,000.
How a jury determines how much fault the victim had in a car accident depends on several factors. For example, if the victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt led to more serious injuries than if he or she had fastened his or her seatbelt, then the jury will likely place more fault on the victim.
Statute of Limitations
In Texas, any civil action for a personal injury must be filed within two years from when the injury occurred. In other words, if you were involved in a car accident, you have two years from the date of your accident to file a claim.
It is important to speak with an attorney to understand more about the legal time limits pertaining to your case because, in some cases, you may be able to file a claim even after the time limit has expired.
Zinda Law Group Can Help
With an experienced and understanding car accident attorney from our firm fighting for you, you can rest assured that your case is in capable hands. We are confident in our ability to help you. If there is a claim worth pursuing, we can use every available tool to help you seek compensation.
Call Zinda Law Group today at (888) 281-6991 to receive your free consultation and see what one of our personal injury attorneys can do for you.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.