The “Seat Belt Defense” and How it Affects My Case

Posted on behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak

on June 7, 2019

. Updated on May 3, 2023


Seat belt guyIf you were involved in a car accident and not wearing a seat belt, you may have suffered some preventable some injuries. But does the failure to buckle up affect the value of your claim? Below, we discuss how not wearing a seat belt impacts your accident claim.

If you or a loved one was injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable attorney at Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak for assistance. We can explain the seat belt defense, how it affects your specific case and if other factors can harm the value of your claim. The consultation is always 100 percent free of charge.

Importance of Wearing a Seat Belt

Wearing a seat belt is often a lifesaver for victims of accidents. These devices can help passengers and drivers in the following ways:

  • Restrain vehicle occupants from flying through the windshield
  • Keep occupants from slamming into the window or dashboard
  • Prevent additional trauma to the body

While not all seat belts are perfect, they have been proven to save lives. Even if you get injured in the accident while wearing a seat belt, injuries in these types of accidents tend to be less serious than injuries that occur when occupants are not wearing seat belts.

How the “Seat Belt Defense” Could be Used Against You

In some states, not wearing a seat belt is used against victims of auto accidents. Insurance companies in these states may use the failure to wear a seat belt to blame the accident victim for his or her injury or to try to justify providing less compensation by claiming that the failure to use a seat belt contributed to the severity of harm you suffered. Insurance adjusters may apply comparative negligence law to reduce the amount of compensation you receive in a settlement.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a legal principle that says the potential award that an accident victim receives will be reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault. There is pure and modified comparative negligence. If the pure version applies, the plaintiff (crash victim) can pursue compensation from the defendant (at-fault party) even if his or her degree of fault is greater than the defendant’s. In a modified comparative fault system, the plaintiff can only recover compensation for injuries if his or her degree of fault was less than 50 percent. (In some states, such as Indiana, the cutoff point is 51 percent fault.) Under a modified system and a pure comparative negligence system, the victim’s award is reduced by his or her percentage of fault.

The insurance adjuster could say your failure to wear a seat belt gives you a certain percentage of fault and reduce the value of your settlement.

You Are in the Clear in Indiana

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that not wearing a seat belt cannot be used by the defendant in order to claim contributory negligence. The Seatbelt Act (Indiana Code 9-19-10-7(b)) in Indiana says that someone who fails to use a seat belt in an accident does not face consequences with the state’s comparative fault rules, and this will not be used to establish negligence or partial fault and responsibility for injuries from a motor vehicle accident.

However, there may be other factors that can contribute to you being found partially at fault, such as if you were speeding when you were hit by a driver making a left turn.

Contact a Skilled Lawyer for Help with Your Claim

When a car accident leads to injuries and property damage, you need a legal team you can count on. The experienced South Bend auto accident lawyers at Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak will investigate your accident and determine who is at fault and liable for damages. Based on your collision’s specific factors, we will calculate damages, so you are aware of the possible range of compensation available.

Contact our lawyers today by chat or over the phone to start a free case evaluation. Our law firm will support you through every step of your claim.

Call us now at (574) 444-0741.

Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak

Serious Attorneys for Serious Cases