A majority of California drivers wear seat belts, but thousands of drivers on the road every day do not. Failure to wear a seatbelt can result in serious physical injuries even if you’re involved in a relatively minor crash.
More importantly, neglecting to buckle up can also undermine your personal injury claim. Although the State of California doesn’t prohibit injury victims from filing personal injury claims for no-seatbelt car accidents, it does account for the risks that drivers willfully assumed.
California Doesn’t Bar Personal Injury Lawsuits for Not Wearing Seatbelts
Don’t let your failure to wear a seatbelt stop you from filing a personal injury claim. California law certainly doesn’t.
Although many serious injuries can be avoided by buckling up, none of your injuries would have been sustained if you hadn’t been struck by a negligent driver. Filing a claim for a no-seatbelt car accident in California gives you the opportunity to recoup your losses that the at-fault driver can be legally held accountable for.
However, the most serious car accident injuries sustained are frequently the result of failing to buckle up. Even as accident victims in California cite the negligence of at-fault drivers, they can expect opposing legal teams to cite the unrestrained driver’s negligence as well. Given that California is a pure comparative fault state, this consideration of the plaintiffs’ own negligence has a definite impact on how much they’re ultimately awarded.
California Seatbelt Laws and Violations
Anyone riding in a moving vehicle in California must be buckled in. However, when issuing penalties, California differentiates between adult drivers and those below the age of 16 who are not wearing seatbelt in moving vehicles. Seatbelt violations for those 16 and older cost $162. For any child under the age of 16 who lacks a proper restraint, the penalty is a $490 fine.
Moreover, all children below the age of 13 should ideally ride in the backseat. Children under the age of eight should have an age and weight-appropriate car seat. The fine for failing to use a car seat or have the correct car seat installed is also $490.
[LEARN MORE]: California Seatbelt Laws
Seatbelt Violations Are a Moving Offense in California
Seatbelt violations are considered a moving offense in the State of California. Thus, being involved in a no seatbelt accident will undoubtedly make your insurance premiums go up.
If you’ve been cited for failing to wear a seatbelt before or have been involved in other accidents without a seatbelt, you may even have a tougher time finding coverage in the future.
The State of California Recognizes the Seatbelt Defense
In California, at-fault drivers are responsible for damages. The first step in California personal injury claims is determining which party is at-fault with clear evidence. The seatbelt defense exists to limit the amount of liability that at-fault parties are subject to when injury victims weren’t wearing seatbelts.
The seatbelt defense can be used whenever:
- Seatbelts were accessible to the victim but were willfully unused
- A typical, reasonable person in the same situation would have worn a seatbelt
- Wearing a seatbelt would have reduced the victim’s injuries or prevented them entirely
The seatbelt defense is considered an affirmative defense. With an affirmative defense, if defendants can introduce credible evidence, their civil or criminal liability can be reduced or negated even though they’ve been proven to have performed the alleged act. When drivers aren’t wearing seatbelts, insurance companies nearly always use the seatbelt defense.
Your Settlement Will be Impacted by How Much You Contributed to Your Injuries
At-fault drivers are held legally responsible for the damages they cause. However, they are not responsible for preventable damages that have occurred due to an injury victim’s own negligence.
Just as motorists are expected to use a reasonable amount of caution when operating their vehicles, they are also expected to take reasonable steps to protect themselves. Buckling up ranks first among these steps. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), seatbelts reduce the risk of injury and death by half.
Percentage of Fault: Comparative Negligence and the Seatbelt Defense
As a pure comparative fault state, California considers how each party may have contributed to the damages sustained. Thus, if you were responsible for a determined percentage of the accident, your award would be reduced by this same amount.
Moreover, if it is determined that your injuries were caused in whole or in part by your failure to wear a seatbelt, your damages will be reduced by the determined percentage of fault for this error.
For instance, if not wearing a seatbelt is believed to have caused 20 percent of your injuries, you’ll receive just 80 percent of the original settlement, and the defendant will keep the other 20 percent. There are also times when it’s determined that 100 percent of a person’s injuries were the result of not wearing a seatbelt.
Failure to Wear a Seatbelt Is Always Cause to Enlist the Help of an Attorney
If you were involved in a car accident and were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of this event, having an attorney on your team is absolutely essential. Negotiating claims like these can be a complex process.
In California, insurance companies can and will use the seatbelt defense to limit the amount of damages that they’re held responsible for paying.
Attorney Jeff Can Help When the Seatbelt Defense Is Used
Attorney Jeff Fayngor has extensive experience in navigating car accident claims. Although citing the lack of a seatbelt can be helpful for reducing or even avoiding liability, it is hardly an infallible defense.
Your car accident attorney may be able to prove that the seatbelt defense isn’t applicable to your claim. Evidence can also be used to shed doubt on the assertion that wearing a seatbelt would have limited or prevented your injuries. This evidence can be bolstered with statements from expert witnesses.
For instance, data collected from standard crash tests are often used in personal injury trials to show how seatbelts limit physical damages in impact events.
Get in Touch With AttorneyJeff Injury Lawyers Today to Schedule a Consultation
Our attorneys can help you get the best possible outcome for your claim. We’ll carefully analyze the evidence that’s already been collected, and we’ll collect evidence of our own. If your claim requires expert witness testimony, we’ll make sure to get it.
By carefully considering all of the relevant details of your case, we can ensure that the at-fault driver is held fully responsible for any damages they’ve caused.
Being in an accident without a seatbelt does not prevent you from filing a claim. More importantly, it shouldn’t keep you from getting the settlement you deserve. Call us today for a consultation.
FAQs About No Seatbelt Car Accidents in California
Who’s responsible for making sure that seatbelts are worn?
Before starting a vehicle’s engine and hitting the road, drivers are responsible for making sure that both they and all of their passengers are properly restrained. When passengers under the age of 16 are not wearing seatbelts, drivers will be cited and must pay the related fines.
What if my car doesn’t have working seatbelts?
All modern vehicles come with seatbelts. If the seatbelts are not working in your vehicle, you should have these repaired or replaced right away. However, cars manufactured before 1964 don’t always have them, and the State of California does not mandate seatbelts for classic or antique cars produced before this time.