Seatbelt Use and Car Accident Liability
Mar 22, 2019 - Allentown Car Accident Lawyer
Allentown Car Accident Lawyer
There is little debate about the effectiveness of seatbelts for preventing injury or death in the car accident context. According to data reported by Center for Disease Control and Prevention, seatbelt use reduced serious crash-related injuries and death by roughly 50 percent, with proper seatbelt use having prevented about 15,000 motor vehicle deaths in 2016 alone. The CDC noted that while airbags were beneficial as added protection, they were not enough on their own — the combined protection of an airbag and seatbelt worked to significantly improve safety outcomes.
If you’ve been seriously harmed in a car accident due to the fault of another, then you may be entitled to compensation under Pennsylvania law. Car accident litigation is not always straightforward, however, particularly if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.
Let’s brief explore some of the liability issues associated with a failure to wear a seatbelt.
Failure to Wear a Seatbelt Could Create Barriers to Complete Damage Recovery
Pennsylvania is a modified comparative negligence state. In accordance with section 7102 of the Pennsylvania Statutes, injured plaintiffs — in car accident lawsuits and otherwise — may only recover damages if they are not more than 50 percent at fault for their own injuries. If the plaintiff is entitled to recover damages (i.e., they are 50 percent or less at-fault for their own injuries), then their contribution of fault will reduce their damage recovery accordingly.
For example, suppose that you are injured in a car accident in which you were not wearing a seatbelt. The court will then have to decide to what degree — given the circumstances surrounding the accident and your subsequent injuries — you were at fault. If your injuries were caused by a side-impact collision in which your body was not significantly displaced by the impact, but instead the defendant’s car penetrated the vehicle, then your failure to wear a seatbelt may not have contributed substantially to the injuries.
If the court finds that you are, say, 30 percent at-fault, then your total damage recovery of $100,000 will be reduced by 30 percent to just $70,000. Depending on the nature of your losses, this can lead to a difficult situation in which you are unable to secure a full and adequate recovery.
Fault and Causation
One of the ways in which you can avoid the pitfalls of having the defendant attach contributory fault to your actions (here, in failing to wear a seatbelt) is by showing that your injuries were not actually linked to the seatbelt use at-issue. Though seatbelts are critical safety tools, they are not always a central component governing an accident and the consequences thereof. If you were injured while traveling in the backseat of a vehicle, and you were not thrown out of your seat (nor were you shifted out of position), then your injuries may have nothing to do with your failure to wear a seatbelt — unless the defendant can show that your negligence in failing to wear a seatbelt somehow caused your injuries, they cannot establish contributory fault.
Contact Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC to Setup a Free and Confidential Consultation
Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC is a personal injury litigation firm serving plaintiffs throughout Pennsylvania in a variety of disputes, including car accident lawsuits.
We have decades of experience advocating for those who have suffered injuries due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another party. Thanks to our broad experience in the field of personal injury law, our attorneys are quite familiar with the unique difficulties that may arise in legal disputes where the plaintiff is believed to have been partially at-fault for their own injuries — as such, we understand how to overcome the arguments put forth by the defendant and secure full and adequate compensation for our client.
Ready to learn more about your claims? Call 610-433-3910 or send us a case evaluation form online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Allentown car accident lawyer at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC.