Does Not Wearing a Seatbelt Affect My Car Accident Injury Claim?
Brian White | December 22, 2018 | Auto Accidents
If you get into an accident and you were not wearing your seatbelt in the state of Texas, failure to buckle up could negatively impact your personal injury claim. It is the law in Texas to always wear a seatbelt as a motor vehicle driver or passenger. To learn more about traffic laws in Houston, you can talk to a personal injury lawyer. Violating the state’s seatbelt law can result in a fine of up to $200 as a traffic infraction, but what are the ramifications after an accident?
Seatbelt Facts and Statistics
Seatbelts save lives. In 2016, seatbelts prevented an estimated 14,668 fatalities. This number could have been about 2,450 lives higher had everyone in the country worn seatbelts, but nearly 27.5 million Americans do not buckle up, on average. The seat belt use rate in 2016 was 90.1%. Wearing a seatbelt is a smart move as a motor vehicle driver – for personal and financial reasons. Not only can wearing a seatbelt protect you from serious injuries; it can also strengthen your personal injury claim.
Drivers and passengers in Texas have to wear seatbelts at all times. These seatbelts must be in proper working condition and used as the manufacturer intended. Children younger than five years old and less than 36 inches tall must sit in child passenger safety seat systems. These include booster seats and car seats. All children younger than the age of 17 must use a safety belt or child safety seat. Driving without wearing a seatbelt is breaking the law in Texas. If you break this law and get into an accident, the defendant could use it against you to diminish the value of your claim.
Comparative Fault in Texas
Texas is a modified comparative fault state, as are 32 other states in the U.S. Under modified comparative fault laws, a plaintiff and a defendant in a personal injury claim can share fault and liability for an accident, but the plaintiff can still qualify for compensation. In Texas, a plaintiff may still qualify for compensation as long as his or her percentage of fault for injuries is 50% or less. In contributory fault states, on the other hand, just 1% of fault could bar a plaintiff from recovery.
Due to Texas’s modified comparative negligence laws, a defendant in a car accident case could allege the plaintiff’s shared fault in an attempt to reduce his or her liability. If the courts split fault between the plaintiff and defendant, the plaintiff will only receive a percentage of compensation – one that corresponds with his/her percentage of fault for the incident. Failure to wear a seatbelt in Texas could be grounds for the courts to assign a percentage of fault for injuries with the victim, even if he or she did not cause the accident.
A defendant or insurance company in a car accident case will generally try to use a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt against him or her as proof of comparative fault. This tactic may work if a medical expert holds that the plaintiff’s injuries most likely would not have occurred – or been as severe – had the plaintiff been obeying the law and wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. If the courts agree that the lack of seatbelt wearing contributed to the injuries, the plaintiff will receive a diminished compensation amount.
How to Fight for Fair Compensation
You can still qualify for fair compensation despite not wearing a seatbelt in a recent Houston car accident case. Hiring an attorney can help you combat this common defense. A lawyer can strengthen your case and help you obtain fair recovery through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, even if you did not have your seatbelt on when you got into the accident. Contact a lawyer if you have this type of case on your hands in Texas.