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Car Accident FAQ: Can I Sue if I Wasn't Wearing a Seat Belt?

The McClellan Law Firm

In 2012, the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) calculated that a total of 159,696 injury collisions occurred in California that year alone. Car accidents happen every day throughout our state and often result in serious injuries.

If you have been injured in a car accident, you know how difficult it can be to accept the losses you've suffered as a result. Whether the damage affected your vehicle or you as an individual, it is not always easy to move on.

When you have been injured, one of your first thoughts might be to sue the other party. After all, they're the one at fault, so it shouldn't be too hard, right? In some cases it is extremely simple to file a lawsuit and claim the compensation you deserve. Unfortunately, there are often other factors that get in the way of such a successful outcome.

A common grey area in car accident claims is the use of a seat belt. If you were injured, but weren't wearing your seat belt, can you still sue? Does all the fault still rest with the other party? The state of California has laws which apply in such cases.

How do seatbelts affect liability?

New Hampshire is currently the only state that does not require adults to wear seat belts. Because it is the law in California and every other state in the U.S. to wear a seat belt while occupying a vehicle, this certainly has an impact on how your car accident claim will be handled.

In a car accident, the party who caused the collision is considered the negligent party. However, when an accident occurs with a driver who is breaking a safety law, that driver may be termed negligent per se, meaning the law could not prevent the harm which it was intended to.

California employs something called "the seat belt defense" which can work against your attempts to sue the negligent party. If you are found without a seat belt on at the time of the accident, this defense will work in favor of the party who caused the accident, as the jury may place a portion of the fault with you, as well.

At the end of the day, you can still sue the negligent party. Unfortunately, the lack of a seat belt can make it more difficult to receive the full amount of compensation you might have been entitled to. When filing your claim, it is also important to note that California only allows you to recover compensation for the injuries you would have received if you had been wearing a seat belt. Any injuries you received because of your failure to wear a seat belt will not be covered.

Before pursuing your claim, you would benefit from securing the counsel of a San Diego car accident attorney from our firm. We can fight for the compensation you deserve with dedicated attention and an airtight defense. Contact us today!