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Are You Entitled to Damages if You Weren’t Wearing a Seatbelt?

Dec 1, 2020 - Doylestown Car Accident Lawyer

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If you’ve been harmed in a motor vehicle accident due to the fault of another, then you may have a right to sue the defendant and secure compensation.  But what initially appears — on the surface — to be a straightforward case may be complicated by certain facts.

What happens if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident?  It is almost certainly a form of negligence on your part — but does it prevent you from suing the defendant and recovering damages?

Not necessarily!  In Pennsylvania, evidence of whether you were or were not wearing a seatbelt is inadmissible at trial.  However, in states like New Jersey, the absence of using a seatbelt can be raised as a defense to the plaintiff’s claim for damages.

Let’s take a closer look.

Causal Link

So, in states that allow a “seatbelt defense,” the defendant must show that your negligence (in failing to wear a seatbelt) is associated with your injuries.  They have to establish a causal link.  Let’s use an example to clarify how this works.

Suppose that you are harmed in a car accident where you were not wearing a seatbelt.  Were your injuries caused by not wearing a seatbelt or would you have been injured regardless, even if you had been wearing one?  The use of a seatbelt may have had no impact on the nature of your injury.  Moreover, and tragically, we have represented clients who suffered because they were wearing a seatbelt, including paralysis, while those in the same car who were not wearing a seatbelt walked away unharmed.   While seatbelts certainly can save lives, depending on the nature of the collision, they can also cause different degree of injury.  We have seen the same situation with airbags.  In some cases, not all, the force of the airbag exploding has caused broken bones,  burns and hearing loss.  These injuries would not have occurred due to the collision, but rather were a result of a device that was designed to save lives.

So the point remains, under some circumstances, one could argue that the failure to use a seatbelt was irrelevant with respect to the injury — it would have occurred regardless.  As such,  failing to wear a seatbelt, was not “causally linked” to the injury claim.   Moreover, in order for a defendant to pursue a “seatbelt defense,” in jurisdictions that allow such a defense, an expert engineer would need to be hired to provide evidence to the jury that had the plaintiff been wearing a seatbelt they would not have been injured.

Contact a Doylestown Accident Lawyer for Help

Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, our team has decades of experience working with injured plaintiffs, including those who have suffered injuries in motor vehicle accidents.  We understand just how challenging it can be to navigate the litigation process, and are committed to providing comprehensive advocacy to our clients at every stage.

Through our close engagement with the client, we gain deep insight into their case, giving us a substantial advantage when it comes to negotiating a settlement or taking the case to trial — the results speak for themselves.

If you’d like to speak to an experienced Doylestown accident lawyer, call us at 888-777-7098 or send us a message online to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.

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