In the United States it is the law for operators and passengers of automobiles to use seatbelts. Seatbelts have been instrumental in preventing injuries and deaths on America’s roadways. For those who have been injured in an auto accident, whether or not the injured party was wearing a seatbelt may have some bearing on the strength of their case.
After an accident, insurance companies will look to the facts and circumstances of the incident to determine which party is at fault in the accident. Such companies will scrutinize the behavior of the injured party for any instances of negligence and use that as a reason to reduce or reject any claims for insurance payouts. Essentially the companies will follow standard negligence law: duty, breach of that duty, causation, and damages. Drivers and passengers of automobiles have a duty to take all precautions and follow the law with regard to properly operating a vehicle. Wearing a seatbelt is considered a part of that duty as every state has traffic regulations that require the use of the seatbelts. Thus, the failure to use the seatbelts is considered negligent.
The next step is to determine causation. A party may be negligent, but it has to be related to causing the accident. If an injured party was not wearing a seatbelt and was subsequently injured in an accident with another vehicle, an insurance company may find the injured party to be partly responsible for the injury if it can be determined that wearing a seatbelt could have reduced or prevented the injury. Each state has its own laws regarding the assignment of negligence so it is best to check state laws. Most states adopt the approach where an injured party cannot recover if they are more than fifty percent responsible for the accident.
When meeting with an attorney, it is best to let the attorney know all of the facts to provide an accurate assessment of your case.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Your case may be different. Hiring an attorney immediately will protect your rights. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.