A report by Consumer Reports last year found that 11.5 percent of Americans don’t use seat belts. That may not seem to be a substantial number; however, the percentage translates into roughly 25 million people. As pointed out in the article, seat belt use doesn’t just put the individual at risk. The consequence of not using seat belts has a significant impact on society in terms of higher insurance rates and increased medical costs.

The good news is that California is in the top three states for seat belt use. Approximately ninety-seven percent of drivers and passengers use seat belts in our state.

Seat Belts Save Lives

It is well-documented that the use of seat belts saves lives and reduce the risk of severe injuries in motor vehicle accidents. According to one source, seat belts are the “single greatest public safety innovation in automotive history.”  During the past 50 years, it is estimated that seat belts saved 329,715 lives. This number equals over one-half of the total lives saved by 14 safety innovations in the automotive industry. Statistics place your risk of being killed in a traffic accident at twice the risk if you are not wearing your seat belt. The risk is even higher if you are in an SUV or light truck.

The Seat Belt Defense

California law requires drivers and passengers to wear seat belts. If you are injured in an accident caused by another driver, you have the legal right to pursue a claim against that driver for compensation for your damages. Your damages may include economic damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage in addition to non-economic damages, common referred to as pain and suffering damages.

However, California Vehicle Code §27315 allows the driver to present the “seat belt defense.” The seat belt defense argues that your injuries would not have been as severe had you been wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.  If the other driver can convince a jury that you are partially at fault for your injuries because you were not wearing your seat belt, your compensation could be reduced. In other words, you will not receive full compensation for your injuries for your “contribution” to your injuries.

If the jury finds you partially at fault, it will assign a percentage of fault to you. Your compensation is then reduced by that percentage.  For example, if your total damages are $50,000 but your percentage of fault for not wearing your seat belt is 30 percent, the most you can receive as compensation is $35,000 ($50,000 less 30 percent).

If you were not wearing a seat belt, it is important to consult an experienced Fresno car accident attorney as soon as possible. The insurance company for the other driver may attempt to reduce your compensation with the seat belt defense.

Call Our Fresno And Central California Valley Car Accident Attorneys

Contact Torem & Associates by telephone at 1-800-954-4444 or online by using the contact form on our website to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.  We can help you fight for your right to receive full compensation for your injuries.