Not wearing a seat belt when driving a car in California is a big deal, but how big of a deal is it, really? You may be surprised to hear this, but there is actually a seat belt defense theory that can reduce your recoverable damages even if the other driver was clearly at-fault for the car accident.
Let’s imagine the following scenario: a car driver exceeded the speed limit, and, as a result, plowed into another car and severely injured its driver. The injured driver than files a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who traveled at a speed above the speed limit.
Accident reconstruction experts then found that the injured driver was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision. The defendant mounts the seat belt defense to relieve himself of responsibility for the accident. As a result, the injured driver’s compensation is reduced by the percentage of his own fault (which is not wearing a seat belt).
“Wait, what has just happened?” you might be wondering. Let our Los Angeles auto accident attorney from the Compass Law Group, LLP explain.
Seat belt defense: what is it?
In short, the seat belt defense is the defense that argues that the plaintiff was supposed to be wearing a seat belt, and doing so would have reduced the severity of his or her injuries and damages. Thus, the defendant can raise the seat belt defense in order to reduce the compensable damages by the amount that could have been avoided had the plaintiff been wearing his/her seat belt during the car crash.
Given that California uses the standard of pure comparative negligence when determining liability and assigning responsibility in motor vehicle accidents, the seat belt defense is not a rare phenomenon for personal injury lawsuits in the state. Under the legal doctrine of pure comparative negligence, each defendant is only liable for his or her percentage of fault.
Our experienced car accident attorney from the Los Angeles Law Firm explains that if you were injured in a car crash but were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision, your award (settlement or verdict) will be reduced by the degree to which you will be determined responsible for your injuries by not wearing a seat belt.
Exaggerated importance of the seat belt defense
Basically, failure to wear a seat belt when driving in California is considered failure to mitigate damages. That means that you failed to take reasonable actions to limit the severity and seriousness of your injury. For that reason, your award will most likely be reduced unless your Los Angeles auto accident attorney can prove that you wearing a seat belt in your particular circumstances would not have helped reduce the severity of your injury.
There are certain types of car crashes in which seat belts are of little to no use, which is why your lawyer must be experienced in handling similar cases in order to determine whether or not the use of seat belt would have made any difference or not.
In addition to that, defendants tend to exaggerate the importance of the seat belt defense, thinking that it can help them avoid liability altogether. But this is a false assumption. Are you worried that you will not be able to seek compensation for your injuries just because you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision?