While most people recognize the potential risk of not wearing a seatbelt when they are involved in a collision, they still choose not to buckle up. Seatbelts are exceptionally effective at reducing the severity of injury. If you suffer injury or a loved one dies in an auto collision when not using a seatbelt, the insurance company for the other driver may also assert the seatbelt defense, which may reduce the amount of your recovery. In other words, drivers who do not wear safety belts face safety risks and legal issues.
If you are involved in a traffic accident and not belted in properly, you may be thrown against the windshield, dashboard or other hard surfaces. Ejection from a motor vehicle creates a substantial risk of fatal injury so a lap belt or shoulder strap may be the reason that you survive a collision.
California seatbelt laws
Although California law makes the failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense, many people elect not to buckle up for safety. Primary seatbelt laws provide an independent basis for the police to stop a driver and issue a traffic citation while police can only pull over or ticket a driver in a secondary offense state if the driver has committed some other violation of law.
Seatbelts are 50 percent effective in preventing severe injury and wrongful death in car accidents involving negligent drivers, unsafe roadways, defective vehicles and other collisions. Primary seatbelt laws promote higher rates of seatbelt use. While 88 percent of vehicle occupants wear safety belts in primary law jurisdictions like California, the rate is almost 10 percent lower in states that make seat belt use a secondary offense according to the CDC.
The importance of wearing seatbelts is two-fold. While the primary function of your vehicle safety restraint system is to minimize the seriousness of your injuries, their use will also protect the value of your San Diego auto accident injury claim.
How does the seatbelt defense impact my San Diego auto accident case?
California and a number of other states recognize the seatbelt defense. Failure to wear a seatbelt is an affirmative defense in a car accident personal injury lawsuit. If the insurance company is able to establish that a reasonable person would have worn a seatbelt and that failure to wear a seatbelt resulted in more serious injuries, this may result in a reduction in damages. Expert testimony is required on the issue of one’s injuries and whether seatbelt use would have mitigated one’s injuries.
Our San Diego auto accident attorneys at Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire have many decades of experience navigating the defenses and strategies of auto insurance companies in personal injury litigation. We offer an initial free consultation so call us today at (619) 821-5648 or complete our case evaluation form.