Always wear a seatbelt while driving. It is one of the easiest steps you can take to increase your safety on the road. In addition to the safety factor, failure to wear a seatbelt has legal consequences for victims injured in an auto accident. In the event that you are injured in a car accident and decide file a lawsuit to seek compensation for injuries, you may face a jury trial. If the defendant is found to be at fault, the jury will determine how much compensation you, the plaintiff, deserve for your injuries.
The jury will calculate the total estimate of your injuries, lost wages and other expenses. This amount is the verdict. Next, the jury will calculate a percentage of how much you were at fault for either the accident or your injuries. In other words, how much you contributed to your damages. The jury will then reduce your verdict by this percentage.
For example, following an accident, a jury may find that you deserve
$100,000.00 to pay for medical expenses, property damages, lost wages and pain and suffering. Next, the jury may find that you were 10% responsible for either the accident or your injuries. Your award therefore will be reduced by 10% and you would receive a verdict of $90,000 instead of $100,000.00. This is called comparative negligence or comparative fault. This $10,000 dollar decrease in the verdict is a huge amount that leaves you severely under-compensated.
Wear a Seatbelt
For auto-accident victims, one of the most common defenses a defendant (which will likely be an insurance company) will try argue is the “seatbelt defense”–an allegation that the plaintiff was not wearing their belt and that this failure contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. The best way to avoid a successful defense during a trial is to always wear your seatbelt. However, even if you were wearing your seatbelt at the time of an accident, an insurance company may try to argue otherwise. If the jury believes the defendant’s claim that you were not wearing a seatbelt, the jury will determine the percentage the failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to your injuries. Your verdict will then be decreased by this percentage.
Another great step to take following an accident is to take pictures of any seatbelt burns left on your skin. Following a very serious accident, seat belts can leave burn marks on your skin. Pictures provide valuable evidence that you were wearing your seatbelt during the accident and will make it hard for the defendant to prove otherwise. So please, be safe and always wear your seat belt.