Compensating Car Accidents Without a Seatbelt in California
Seatbelts are arguably the most important safety features in a vehicle. Unfortunately, some people intentionally or unintentionally fail to wear them while riding or driving a vehicle.
In California, every car passenger and their driver is required to wear a seatbelt or restraint whenever a vehicle is in motion. Failure to do so is considered a legal offense and can attract penalties.
That said, if you get involved in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt but the other party is at fault, you are still eligible for compensation.
However, you’re unlikely to receive the same compensation you would have had you been wearing a seatbelt, and your case may also be complicated. An experienced personal injury lawyer at LA Century Law can help you navigate these cases and pursue the compensation you deserve.
California Seatbelt Laws
California Vehicle Code 27315 addresses seatbelt laws in California. It mandates that anyone 16 years and above should wear a seatbelt in a moving vehicle, whether they are the driver or passenger. It also requires that parents ensure that children aged 15 and below are secured with a safety constraint while in a moving vehicle.
The only people who are exempt from wearing seatbelts are those with medical disabilities that hinder seatbelt use or working in an occupation requiring frequent stops, such as newspaper delivery, USPS, and garbage collection. Also, if you occupy a vehicle that doesn’t have a seatbelt, such as some public transportation vehicles, you’re not required to wear a seatbelt.
Violation of the California seatbelt law can attract a fine ranging from $162 for adults and $465 for children younger than 16.
However, there’s a worse fate than penalties. Failing to wear a seatbelt could put you at risk of sustaining severe injuries or, even worse, losing your life in case of an accident.
In fact, a report by National Highway Safety found that in 2017, there were approximately 37,133 motor vehicle accidents in California. Out of these, 47% weren’t wearing seatbelts. Additionally, 618 people died because they failed to wear their seatbelts.
How Lack of Seatbelts Affects Accident Liability
The person who caused the accident is usually considered the negligent or at-fault party. However, if the accident involves a driver who has broken a safety regulation, the driver may be held negligent per se. This means that the law may not prevent the injury as is required.
In the state of California, ‘the seatbelt defense’ may work against your ability to hold the at-fault party responsible. If it’s determined that you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of the accident, then the seatbelt defense will favor the negligent person.
The reason for this is that the jury may hold you partially at fault. But this is not to say that you can’t sue the at-fault party. Even so, obtaining compensation for your injuries will be more challenging.
In short, when you file a claim in California, you are eligible to obtain compensation for your injuries even if you were not wearing a seatbelt. However, the injuries you sustained because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt won’t be considered.
How a Seatbelt Violation Affects Your Personal Injury Claim
If you are involved in an accident and weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time, a law enforcement officer may give you a ticket for non-compliance with the seatbelt law. However, this doesn’t bar you from suing the person that caused the accident.
California is a comparative state, but its laws don’t prevent you from seeking compensation for your injuries, even if you didn’t buckle up at the time of the accident. The court addresses such claims by looking at the injuries that could have been avoided had the victim worn a seatbelt and excludes those injuries from the compensation.
In most cases, the insurer of the negligent party will attempt to argue that all the injuries you suffered resulted from you not wearing your seatbelt. If they are successful in their defense, they can significantly reduce the compensation you’ll receive for your injuries.
Suppose your case goes to trial, the court will instruct the jury to factor in how your failure to wear a seatbelt may have aggravated your injuries. In case the at-fault driver tries to use the seatbelt defense, they’ll need to establish that:
- Wearing a seatbelt would have prevented the injuries
- The injuries are more severe because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt.
In such a scenario, an experienced attorney can help you build a strong case by gathering the necessary evidence and using testimonies from medical and biomechanical experts to establish that your injuries are unrelated or minimally related to you not wearing a seatbelt.
Defending Your Right to Receiving Compensation
While it’s imperative to buckle up before you start driving, this doesn’t mean that you should bear all the accident-related expenses due to a simple oversight on your part.
If not wearing a seatbelt is deemed partially responsible for your accident injuries, your compensation will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. For instance, if it’s established that you’re 30% at fault and would have otherwise been eligible for $150,000, you will receive 105,000, which is 70% of the original settlement.
After being involved in a California accident, you have two years to file your personal injury claim from the day of the accident. To increase your chances of receiving the maximum compensation possible for your claim, it’s advisable to hire an experienced attorney to help you throughout the process.
Our team at LA Century Law is ready to help you prove that despite your failure to wear a seatbelt, most, if not all, of your injuries were caused by the at-fault party’s negligence. We know what to look for and how to analyze evidence at the scene of the accident to help strengthen your case.
Contact us today and schedule a free consultation.
FAQs About Car Accidents Without Seatbelts
What injuries can you incur if you get involved in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt?
Seatbelts help you reduce the severity of injuries in case of an accident. The injuries sustained in an accident where you weren’t wearing a seatbelt can range from minor to life-altering. They include whiplash, neck injuries, internal organ damage, spinal injury damage, and more.
What is comparative negligence law in California?
Since California uses the comparative negligence rule, some of your injuries may be blamed on you if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt in a car or a helmet on a motorcycle.