Seatbelt Use and Car Accident Liability

March 22, 2019

Allentown Car Accident Lawyer

There is little debate about the effectiveness of seatbelts for preventing death in the car accident context.  According to data reported by the 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.

Is the Failure to Wear a Seatbelt Admissible at Trial?

If you were injured in a car collision in Pennsylvania, the failure to wear a seatbelt cannot be used against you.  The issue of whether you did or did not wear a seatbelt is inadmissible at trial.  The reason for this is that in some cases seatbelts and for that matter, airbags would not have prevented the injuries sustained.   In some cases, not all, seatbelts and airbags actually caused greater harm than had these safety devices not been present.  Since it might be too speculative to determine whether an injury was worse (such as paralysis through the use of a lap belt) or broken nose n the case of an airbag, the evidence of whether a plaintiff was wearing a seatbelt is excluded from being presented at trial.

What about New Jersey?

in New Jersey, defendants who cause a plaintiff to sustain damages and losses can raise the “seatbelt defense.”   The seatbelt defense is offered to prove that had the plaintiff been wearing a seatbelt he or she would not have sustained the degree of injury they did.  The defendant has the burden to prove the seatbelt defense and must do so with expert testimony.  Typically, if this defense is raised the defendant’s insurance company will hire a biomechanical engineer to offer an opinion that had the plaintiff been wearing a seatbelt, they would not have been injured at all or would not have been injured to the same degree.  However, it is also true as noted above that while seatbelts save lives, in certain circumstances they can also cause an enhancement of certain injuries.

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.