If I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in my auto accident, can I still recover damages?

Woman buckling a seatbelt in the driver’s seat of a car.


If I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in my auto accident,
can I still recover damages?

Home » FAQ » If I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in my auto accident, can I still recover damages?

Seatbelts have been required since 1968, yet many drivers still fail to buckle up when they hit the roads. Even though seatbelts have been proven to save lives in auto accidents, 9,466 Americans were killed in 2019 due to not buckling up. 

To learn if you can still file a lawsuit if you did not have your seatbelt on in an auto accident, contact an expert car accident lawyer for a free consultation.

We will help you understand what your best options are to recover damages.

Seatbelts Save Lives

Seatbelts were designed to protect drivers and passengers from common injuries from early car accidents in the United States. Remember, early cars didn’t have the safety features that our modern vehicles have to prevent grievous injuries and death.

Statistics show that more than 50% of fatal car crashes involved victims who did not have their seatbelt on at the time of the auto accident. 

Although it may seem more convenient to get in your car and drive without taking the few seconds it requires to buckle up, you’re risking your own life. The majority of accidents occur within a few miles of your home. These are often the short drives where individuals claim that they don’t need to bother buckling up.

If you don’t buckle up, you put yourself at risk for serious injuries, such as:

  • Whiplash
  • Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
  • Internal bleeding
  • Broken ribs
  • Collapsed lungs
  • Muscle injuries 
  • Death

Who is at fault if you weren’t wearing a seat belt?

Drivers who aren’t wearing their seatbelts are putting their lives at risk. Whether or not you are at fault for an accident, choosing to skip the seatbelt can lead to worse injuries that could have been easily prevented. 

However, not wearing a seatbelt doesn’t necessarily mean that you are at fault for an auto accident. The person who caused the collision is still at fault. Your negligence doesn’t cancel out theirs.

The question becomes, how responsible were each of you for the harm you suffered?

The other driver may have caused the accident, but you may sustain worse injuries than you would have had you used your seat belt.

Can I recover damages if I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt?

If you were injured or had property damaged in a car accident, you are most likely entitled to recover damages. In almost all cases where the other driver caused the collision, you will be entitled to receive compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial injuries.

Although not wearing a seatbelt certainly complicates the process of seeking damages, it does not preclude you from being able to recover compensation. However, it can impact the amount that you will receive.

To have the best chance to recover damages if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, contact a car accident attorney who can help protect your rights to whatever compensation you may be entitled to.

To give yourself the best chance, contact an expert car accident attorney today.

The “Seat Belt Defense”

The “seat belt defense” is a common tactic by insurance companies to reduce payouts to victims of auto accidents. Both your insurance company and the defendant’s will likely try to use evidence that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt as a reason to not pay you damages.

Remember, insurance companies are prioritizing their own interests over yours. That means that even if you have a valid claim for compensation, they will still use underhanded tricks to lower your compensation and force you to pay out of pocket for injuries that weren’t entirely your fault.

The seatbelt defense theory essentially argues that although you may not have caused the accident, you contributed to the severity of your injuries by not wearing a seatbelt.

To help fight the seat belt defense, your best course of action is to hire a car accident attorney who isn’t intimidated by insurance companies and will prioritize your wellbeing. An attorney knows that even if an adjuster doesn’t immediately use the defense, it is in the back of their mind. 

Your attorney will prepare to defend you against this claim to ensure that you get the highest compensation possible. 

Comparative Fault Laws

While you are entitled to damages if the other driver caused the collision, it is likely that you will also be found partially at fault for the accident. Comparative fault laws allow you to collect compensation while still being assigned a percentage of the fault for the auto accident.

Comparative fault statutes were created to ensure that victims received compensation even if they were partially at fault for an accident. Before this, the defendant could argue even 1% plaintiff fault, thus removing their right to collect damages.

In comparative fault states, such as Florida, the victim can still collect damages. However, their compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 in damages, but you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, which meant that you were found to be 40% at fault for the accident, you can only collect 60% of the compensation. In this case, you would only be able to collect $60,000 in damages.

Our Car Accident Lawyers Are Here to Help You

Battling insurance companies is difficult even when you aren’t obviously at fault. If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, recovering damages becomes very challenging.

Give yourself the best chance of overcoming the seat belt defense and lowering your percentage of fault by hiring an excellent car accident attorney today.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, it is imperative that you surround yourself with the best legal care as soon as possible.

Fill out the form below to get started for free.

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