Can I Still File an Injury Claim if I Was Not Wearing My Seat Belt in California?
According to a recent study, about 14% of Americans do not wear their seat belts in moving vehicles. Almost 50% of vehicle passengers who were killed in 2019 were not wearing their seat belts. Many of us assume that seat belt use has become widespread across the United States and California, but there are still many Americans who choose not to buckle up. If you were injured in a Los Angeles car accident and you were not wearing your seat belt, you probably now understand how important these safety devices are. The real question is whether you can still get compensated for your injury.
If you are wondering about whether you can file an injury claim or lawsuit after a car accident in Los Angeles, your best bet is to get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. During your initial consultation, we can go over the unique factors that surround your accident. Based on this information, we can then recommend the best course of action.
You Can Still File a Lawsuit
The first thing you should know is that you can still file a lawsuit. Your failure to use a seat belt will not be a factor. However, filing a lawsuit and actually receiving compensation are two very different things, and the fact that you did not wear a seat belt may affect your chances of success.
The Seat Belt Defense
Insurance companies and negligent parties will look for any possible way to avoid liability. If they know that you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, they will almost certainly attempt to use this against you. This is known as a “Seat Belt Defense.” Not all states allow defendants to employ the seat belt defense, but California recognizes it.
Understanding Comparative Negligence
The seat belt defense may affect your total compensation amount due to something called comparative negligence. In California, you can still file a lawsuit even if you were partly responsible for your own injuries. However, the degree to which you caused your own injuries will affect your settlement amount. For example, if you were 50% responsible for your own injuries, you will only have the ability to recover 50% of your settlement. It is worth noting that California is a “pure” comparative negligence state, which means you could theoretically file a lawsuit even if you were 99% responsible for your own injuries.
What this means is that if your injuries were 100% the result of you not wearing a seat belt, you cannot recover any compensation for those injuries. For example, if you became disfigured due to impacting the windshield of your car, the defendant might argue that the seat belt would have prevented you from being thrown that far forward. On the other hand, you would still have the ability to recover compensation for an injury that the seat belt could not have prevented, such as a flying piece of metal coming through the windshield and impacting your chest.
Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney Today
If you have been searching the Los Angeles area for a qualified, experienced personal injury attorney, look no further than Mary Alexander & Associates. With our help, you can pursue a considerable settlement, whether you were wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash or not. Although it is easy to blame yourself for your injuries, negligent motorists are truly to blame. Book a consultation today, and we can hold those negligent drivers accountable for your injuries.