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Can You Collect Money in a Car Accident if you were NOT Wearing Your Seatbelt

Rear End Car Accident

What If I am Not Wearing My Seatbelt in an Automobile Accident?

California's seat belt law, Vehicle Code § 27315, requires that all drivers and passengers 16 years of age or older wear a seat belt when in a moving vehicle. If you are not wearing a seatbelt in an automobile accident you are violating the law.  This does not prevent you from collecting money to compensate you for your auto accident injuries.  Here is the law

Vehicle Code Section 27315 Requires that You Wear a Seatbelt 

Under § 27315 of California's Vehicle Code, if you are not wearing a seat belt you can still sue.

The Defense Can use the "He didn't use a seatbelt" Against You

The other side can argue that this failure is the major cause of your injuries. Remember that the purpose of a seatbelt is to stop you with the car. It bonds you to the car as if you and the car are one. But.....without a seatbelt, the driver flies freely until stopped suddenly (emphasize suddenly) This “suddenly” means that force is transferred Fully from the accident. Force is mass times velocity and force to stop the body in even a low-speed collision can be in the range of tons.

So at trial in California case, the failure to wear a seatbelt can be considered by the jury in personal injury cases if the injuries would have been LESS if the seatbelt had been worn.

All is not lost however, "those without seatbelt sign had fewer abdominal injuries (8.7%)"  See:the article titled "Seatbelts and road traffic collision injuries Alaa K Abbas, Ashraf F Hefny and Fikri M Abu-Zidan".

The California case of Housley v. Godinez (App. 5 Dist. 1992) 6 Cal.Rptr.2d 111, 4 Cal.App.4th 737 held that in an automobile accident personal injury suit, the burden of proof was on defendants. The defendant had to prove whether under circumstances of that specific case, a passenger in vehicle in exercise of ordinary care should have used seat belt available to him. Once that is proven the next issue the defendant has to prove is what injuries the passenger would have sustained compared to what he did sustain, if seat belt had been used.

No Seatbelt Makes Accident Case Settlement Difficult

If you are not wearing a seatbelt in an accident it is very difficult to settle the case for full value.  It makes the case more expensive to develop experts have to be hired to give opinions about how the lack of a seatbelt made the injury more serious.

See: NHTSA "Seat Belt Use in 2023 – Overall Result" .  They indicate that "The national estimate of seat belt use by adult front-seat passengers in 2023 was 91.9 percent."  In fatal accidents seatbelt use is a critical factor.  ". The use of seat-belts has been shown to reduce the probability of being killed by 40-50% for drivers and front seat passengers and by about 25% for passengers in rear seats."  . Elvik R, Vaa T, editors. Elsevier. Oxford: The handbook of road safety measures; 2004. Quantified road safety targets and targeted road safety programmes; pp. 166–70. [Google Scholar]  But it is not a one way street.  The journal article notes that "Several studies have shown that seat-belts can actually result in fatal injuries in the event of a crash".  Kulowski J, Rost WB. Intra-abdominal injury from safety belt in auto accident. AMA Arch Surg. 1956;73:970–1. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]; arrett JW, Braunstein PW. The seat belt syndrome. J Trauma. 1962;2:220–38. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]  This underscores the need for a case by case analysis and the expense but necessity of an expert.

Hire An Expert Accident Attorney

Our expert car accident lawyers know that some cases have to go to a jury so that you can get your fair and just compensation. Our reputation as “million dollar car accident” trial lawyers may help settle a “no seatbelt” case that other firms must take to trial. But whether we settle your case or present the fact to a jury, our accident lawyers represent you at the highest possible level.

We don't take every case but if we take your accident case we will pursue it fully to get you the best possible result.