Seat belt save lives! That is drilled into our heads by law enforcement, insurance companies, and safety advocates because it is true. In 2014, seat belts saved 12,803 lives and protected thousands of vehicle occupants from sustaining more serious injuries. Numerous studies have shown that wearing a seat belt decreases the risk of being killed or seriously injured in a traffic accident. For that reason, many states, including California have adopted what is commonly referred to as the “seat belt defense.”
If you were not wearing your seat belt at the time of the crash, your ability to recover full compensation could be in jeopardy. Call our Fresno car accident attorney at 1-800-954-4444 for a free case analysis and to discuss your legal options regarding the seat belt defense.
What is the Seat Belt Defense?
Because wearing seat belts reduce the risk of injury and state law requires occupants to wear safety belts, the law in California allows defendants to allege your injuries would not be as severe or you would not have been injured at all had you been wearing a safety restraint at the time of the crash.
The argument alleges that the driver should be beheld 100 percent at fault for your injuries because you did not exercise due care by failing to wear your seat belt. In other words, your injuries are partially your fault because you failed to buckle up. Therefore, you should not be entitled to recover full compensation from the at-fault driver since you were partially at fault for your injuries.
Comparative Fault and the Safety Belt Defense
The defense in a car accident lawsuit can present evidence to prove you were not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash. The attorney argues that because of your failure to obey California’s seat belt laws, you suffered more severe injuries than you would have had you obeyed the law. If the jury agrees with the defense, it will assign a percentage of fault to you for your injuries. Your compensation will be reduced by that percentage.
For instance, if you were to receive $100,000 for your damages but you are found to be 40 percent at fault, the most you could receive would be $60,000 ($100,000 less 40 percent). Therefore, it is extremely important to hire an attorney who has experience arguing against the safety belt defense to help mitigate the damage a defense attorney can do to your claim in court.
California’s Seat Belt Laws
Currently, California law requires that all occupants of a vehicle be secured in a safety device. Children should be in a car seat or booster seat pursuant to the child safety restraint laws. Failing to obey the law can result in expensive fines.
We Can Help!
Our Fresno And Central California Valley accident lawyers understand the seat belt defense and how to argue against it if necessary. If you have been injured in a car accident, contact Torem & Associates by telephone at 1-800-954-4444 or online by using the contact form on our website to request your free legal consultation with a Fresno personal injury attorney.