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Can The Seat Belt Defense Hurt My Car Accident Claim?

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When a driver in a car accident did not have on a seat belt, his or her chances of receiving compensation for injuries and damage from the accident can be impacted. Whether his or her settlement or lawsuit award will be impacted depends heavily on the state's laws and the circumstances of the case. If you were the victim in an accident and you were not wearing a seat belt, here is what you need to know.

What Is the Seatbelt Defense?

Some states have what is known as the "seat belt defense" in personal injury law. The law allows for the driver who was responsible to claim that he or she should not be 100 percent liable for the injuries of the other driver if they were not wearing seat belt. The responsible driver could argue that the other driver should share some of costs for the accident.

If a court agrees with the responsible driver, the other driver's settlement could be reduced. The amount of the reduction could vary. Some states rely on a percentage based system that would assign a certain percentage of the blame to each party. The total costs of the injuries and damages would then be split according to the percentage.

For instance, if both parties were equally responsible for the accident, the total costs from the accidents would be evenly split. Any outstanding fees or expenses related to the case by the victim would be his or hers to pay because of the shared responsibility.

What Can You Do?

If you did not have a seat belt on, the first step is to find out what your state's laws say in the matter. A personal injury lawyer can help you research the state's laws and determine which aspects of it apply to your situation.

There is a possibility that you could have your percentage of the blame reduced. The lower the percentage, the better for you. There are several strategies that you could use to potentially reduce your responsibility. For instance, if you were hit by a speeding car while pulling out of your driveway, you could argue that your lack of a seat belt did not contribute to the accident in any way. If a judge agrees, you might be able to keep a larger share of your settlement.

To learn more about the seat belt defense and to explore your legal options, contact an attorney or visit a website like