Seat belts aren't only designed to physically protect you in the event of an accident. Seat belts also provide financial protection when an accident occurs. If you have been involved in an accident where you weren't wearing your seat belt, it's important to know what type of legal roadblocks could be standing in front of you.
Seat Belt Defense
The first challenge you face is the seat belt defense. If you happen to live in one of the 16 states that have this law in place, your failure to wear a seat belt automatically reduces the amount of compensation you can collect. In some cases, medical bills or pain and suffering incurred from an injury that could have been prevented had you been wearing a seat belt aren't allowed to be included in your claim.
However, as a little glimmer of hope, many of the states that adapt to this rule reduce only a certain percentage of the compensation for the injuries that fall into this category, not the full 100 percent.
Even if your state doesn't practice the defense law, this doesn't mean you are free and clear. If it has been documented within the accident report that you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact, you could be hit with a legal roadblock known as comparative negligence.
Comparative negligence is a defense tool that aims to reduce the amount of your claim based on the fact that your own actions were in-part responsible for your injuries. If you're going after a large insurance company with a team of attorneys, this is likely to be a struggle you face.
Overcoming The Hurdle
One of the most important things you can do in this type of case is keep quiet. In any case, silence is golden. However, when the person from whom you are seeking compensation already has some form of ammunition against you, your words can be enough to pull the trigger and kill your case. Allow your attorney to serve as your mouthpiece.
For example, an attorney representing the insurance company could causally ask whether you typically don't wear a seat belt. You could innocently answer with a yes, stating that the seat belt is uncomfortable. Your answer only gives them fuel for their comparative negligence defense because it allows them to paint a picture of you as an unsafe driver, which could be especially damaging if your case goes to trial.
Make it a point to wear a seat belt each time you get in a car to avoid this type of scenario. However, in the event of an accident, while difficult, it is not impossible to get fair compensation. Contact a local attorney, such as one from Knochel Law, for further assistance.