Can I Still Sue If I Wasn’t Wearing A Seat Belt in An Accident?

Federal law didn’t require seat belts in cars until 1968. Since then, seat belts have become a standard safety feature in all types of personal vehicles. In fact, in the state of California, all drivers and passengers of motor vehicles must wear a seat belt if they wish to avoid a costly fine and a ding to their driving record.

But what about those drivers who weren’t wearing a seat belt and were injured in a crash as a result of another driver’s negligence? Can they still make a car accident injury claim against the at-fault party?

The answer is yes, but with a few stipulations. While they can certainly still file a car insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, our top car accident lawyers in Oakland say their failure to buckle up could have an impact on the amount they’ll ultimately recover. If you find yourself caught in this unusual circumstance, here’s what you need to know:

  • Contact The Barnes Firm

    Fields marked with an * are required

What Are California’s Seat Belt Laws?

Of the 37,133 people who were killed in California motor vehicle crashes in 2017, 47% were not wearing seat belts, according to statistics from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. California legally requires all drivers and passengers to wear their seats belt in order to reduce the risk of injury and death. This applies to all occupants of a moving motor vehicle who are 8 years of age or older. Children under 8 years of age must be restrained in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle, and children under the age of 2 must ride in a rear-facing car seat.

The cost of an adult seat belt violation in California is $162. That number escalates to $490 for those drivers who fail to properly restrain a child under the age of 16. If the parent is not in the car, the driver gets the ticket. Legal defenses are available to those who don’t wear a seat belt. It’s important, in this case, to consult with an attorney before challenging a ticket.

Click It or Ticket” debuted in California in 2005, and since then, the state’s seat belt use rate has increased from 92.5% in 2005 to 95.9% in 2018.

person buckling seatbelt in car

How Does a Seat Belt Violation Affect Your Car Accident or Personal Injury Claim?

After your car accident, the law enforcement personnel at the scene may give you a ticket for not wearing your seat belt. But the infraction doesn’t disallow you from filing a car accident injury claim against the at-fault party.

If you do decide to file a claim, it’s important to note that you can’t receive any compensation for damages that were suffered as a result of not wearing your seat belt, but you may pursue all other injuries. The courts will address your violation by examining the injuries which could’ve been evaded had a seat belt been worn. This is referred to as the “seat belt defense” in California, which is defined by the insurance company’s use of evidence regarding your failure to wear a seat belt in connection with the underlying accident. They may argue that even though you may not have caused the accident itself, your failure to wear a seat belt contributed to the severity of your car accident injuries.

If the insurance company representing the at-fault party argues that the injuries you experienced arose because you weren’t wearing a seat belt, it would significantly reduce the compensation amount they’re obligated to pay out for your injuries. It’s so important, in this case, to seek the help of an experienced car accident attorney in Oakland who can help you fight for your rights.

If your case heads to trial, members of the jury will be instructed to evaluate how your failure to buckle up affected your injuries. Your lawyer may seek expert testimony from medical and biomechanical specialists in order to establish that your damages are either unconnected or minimally related to you not wearing a seat belt.

Contact Oakland’s Trusted Car Accident Lawyers

Even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt after your Oakland car accident, you can still receive compensation for the sustained damages from the at-fault party. An expert personal injury attorney at The Barnes Firm will fight for your rights after launching a legal investigation into your case and the circumstances leading up to the crash. We’re dedicated to providing you with the soundest case possible and will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve.

With over 100 years of combined legal experience, our team of knowledgeable car accident lawyers in Oakland can handle your case and are available 24/7 to review your accident and answer your questions. To schedule a free consultation with our knowledgeable auto accident attorneys, call The Barnes Law Firm or complete our online contact form today.

The Barnes Firm (800) 800-0000