Can Not Wearing a Seat Belt Be Used against You in a Lawsuit?
Wednesday, October 19, 2016By Richard Alexander
Some people worry that they will not be able to sue someone else for crash-related injuries unless they were wearing their seat belts. Some states do prohibit this from happening. Fortunately, California is not one of them.
Companies and people defending crash lawsuits often try to blame the injured person for his or her own injuries. One way they do this is by saying that the victim failed to wear his or her seat belt. In fact, this tactic is so common that this argument is often known as the “seat belt defense.”
The argument goes like this: State law requires drivers and passengers to wear their seat belts. People can even be punished for not wearing a seat belt when the law requires its use. Therefore, the wrongdoer should not be held responsible for injuries that result from the victim not wearing the mandated seat belt.
Most state legislatures or courts recognize that this is an extremely harsh result and do not allow defendants to wipe away all liability with the seat belt defense. In fact, several states do not allow wrongdoers who cause crashes to introduce evidence of seat belt nonuse for any purpose. A few states are on the other end of the spectrum, allowing evidence of seat belt nonuse for any reason.
California’s seat belt use law is somewhere in the middle. In California, a wrongdoer can use evidence of seat belt nonuse, but only to try to show the comparative fault of the victim.
What does this mean? This means that the jury can hear evidence that the victim was not wearing his or her seat belt, then compare any fault of the victim with the fault of the wrongdoer. As a result, the money damages you receive could be reduced, even if the other driver was entirely at fault in causing the accident.
If you or a family member have been wrongfully injured in an accident, call us at 888.777.1776 or use our online contact form. Delays can hurt your case, so please don't wait.