When you get into a car accident while not wearing a seatbelt, you are allowed to file an injury claim against the motor vehiclist that was responsible for your injuries. However, the “seatbelt defense” law varies depending on the state you live in and what type of injuries you’ve sustained. In certain situations, your failure to buckle up can majorly impact the amount of money you will ultimately recover from the accident.
Car Accident Insurance Claims Vs Personal Injury Claims
When you’re injured in a car accident involving an insured at-fault driver, you’ll have numerous options for getting compensation for any losses you sustained from the crash. This compensation will include payment for your medical bills, lost income, “pain and suffering,” and other “damages.”
Typically all of this starts with making an injury claim with the at-fault driver’s car insurance company. This is what’s known as a “third party” claim. Once you file this type of claim, an adjuster will conduct an investigation during which they’ll determine the following:
- How did the car accident happen?
- Who was at fault?
- What’s the nature and extent of your injuries?
Once the investigation is complete, the adjuster will either deny your claim or offer you a settlement of a certain amount. It’s at this point that your failure to wear a seatbelt will enter into the equation. If you feel that the settlement offer is unfairly low and the adjuster says it’s because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, you can either try to negotiate a better settlement or contact a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer will then evaluate your injury claim and offer you some options – one of which is to file a personal injury lawsuit and take the case to court.
Regardless of what you decide to do, you still may find yourself unable to get a better financial outcome because you didn’t have a seatbelt on when the car accident happened. This is due to the legal concept that’s frequently referred to as the “seatbelt defense.”
The “Seatbelt Defense”
This is when the insurance company (or the defendant, if you’ve filed a lawsuit in a court of law) will present evidence showing that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt when the car accident occurred. Their theory is that even though you aren’t responsible for the accident since you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, your injuries were made worse.
It’s important to understand that not every state allows for the use of the seatbelt defense. You should also know that even in those states that do allow for this defense, the adjuster doesn’t have to apply it when they’re negotiating a settlement with you. However, the seatbelt defense will definitely be on the adjuster’s mind. This is because those claims that can’t be settled usually turn into a lawsuit. The adjuster knows that when this happens, they can use the seatbelt defense in court, thus impacting the amount of money that the insurance company will ultimately need to pay for your injuries.
This defense also overlaps with two more legal concepts: comparative fault and mitigation. Here’s where things can get tricky. Therefore if you plan to fight for more compensation, you should have a lawyer on your side.
Defending Yourself Against a “Seatbelt Defense” Argument
It can be challenging to overcome the “seatbelt defense” that may be used to argue against you receiving more compensation than is offered. They may try to claim that you’re somewhat to blame for your injuries. The best way to overcome this argument is with the help of our lawyers at the Blenner Legal Group in Palm Harbor, FL. Contact us today.