Many people operate vehicles in Los Angeles and California without wearing a seat belt. Some of them are just too lazy to buckle up, while others think – wrongly – that nothing bad will happen to them. And then there are also those who forget to wear a seat belt or have no seat belt available to them.
Whatever is the case, if you have been injured in a car accident and the other party (or his/her insurance company) knows that you were not bucked up at the time of the collision, you are probably wondering, “Should I file a personal injury claim if I wasn’t wearing a seat belt?”
We asked our Los Angeles car accident lawyer from Compass Law Group, P.C., to answer this question. So should you even bother filing a claim if you were injured in a car crash you were not strapped in? Will the fact that you failed to wear a seat belt affect your personal injury claim or settlement?
“It might,” says our experienced car accident attorney in Los Angeles. “But it depends on the circumstances of your particular case.”
How failure to use a seat belt may affect your settlement
Unlike many other states, in California the fact that you failed to wear a seat belt does not necessarily mean that your personal injury claim will be reduced or denied. However, the so-called “seat belt defense” may apply in limited circumstances.
More often than not, only a car accident lawyer in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California will be able to determine whether or not insurance companies can mount the “seat belt defense” to minimize or deny your claim, as there has to be established a direct link between your seat belt non-use and the severity or cause of your injury.
Will your personal injury claim be reduced or denied?
In other words, the value of your settlement may be reduced or your claim may be denied if the other party’s attorney can prove the following elements:
- Any other person of ordinary prudence would have used the seat belt in similar circumstances;
- You did not exercise ordinary care by failure you use the seat belt;
- Your non-use of the seat belt at the time of the collision caused or aggravated your injury; and
- Your injury would have been less severe had you been buckled up at the time of the crash.
Our Los Angeles car accident lawyer explains that as long as you can prove that your injuries would have still occurred even if you used a seat belt at the time of your collision, the at-fault party and/or insurance companies will not be able to apply the seat belt defense in your particular case.
Oftentimes, proving that your non-use of the seat belt did not cause or contribute to the extent of your injuries requires expert testimony from accident reconstruction experts as well as medical experts.
What if non-use of a seat belt caused or worsened your injury?
Even if the other party proves that your failure to use the seat belt at the time of the car accident worsened your injury, you may still be entitled to seek compensation. That’s because California follows a pure comparative negligence system, which means your recovery of damages may be reduced by your own percentage of fault, but in no way does it mean that your personal claim injury will be denied.
Let our Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Compass Law Group, P.C., evaluate your particular case and determine whether or not your non-use of the seat belt had any impact on the severity of your injuries and losses.