Can I Claim Compensation if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt in Pennsylvania?
While wearing a seat belt is necessary to protect yourself from injury, drivers and passengers don’t always buckle up. If you weren’t wearing a seat belt at the time of a car accident in Pennsylvania, can you recover compensation in a lawsuit?
In Pennsylvania, failure to wear a seat belt does not constitute contributory negligence and won’t impact your recovery in a compensation claim. However, that doesn’t mean you should go without a seat belt. Failure to follow Pennsylvania’s seat belt laws can lead to victims sustaining more serious injuries in car accidents. Not wearing a seat belt when required to might also result in fines for drivers. Furthermore, compensation is never promised. To recover all damages entitled to you following a car accident in Pennsylvania, our attorneys can take your case to court.
To have the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm evaluate your case for free, call us today at (215) 709-6940.
Will My Failure to Wear a Seat Belt Hurt My Compensation Claim in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is a modified comparative fault state, meaning that a plaintiff’s negligence can be reduced proportionally to their liability. Fortunately, not wearing a seat belt does not constitute contributory negligence in Pennsylvania.
In many states, a victim’s compensation can be reduced if they contributed to their injuries by not wearing a seat belt, even if another driver was totally at fault for the accident. In Pennsylvania, that is not the case. In fact, within Pennsylvania’s seat belt law, 75 Pa.C.S. § 4581(e), defendants are precluded from using the fact that a victim was not wearing a seat belt as an argument for contributory negligence. This is not only mandated by Pennsylvania law but was upheld in a 2009 decision from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. This applies to car accident lawsuits with surviving plaintiffs and wrongful death claims brought because of motor vehicle accidents.
This means that even if your injuries could have been less severe had you been wearing a seat belt, your compensation will not be reduced. This greatly benefits victims, as comparative negligence cannot be used as leverage by defendants to convince them to settle out of court. So, if you take your case to trial and are awarded compensation by a judge or jury, you will receive the full awarded amount without reductions for comparative negligence in Pennsylvania. Victims should not immediately believe defendants who claim that comparative negligence will impact their recovery and should settle out of court.
Should I Wear a Seat Belt if it Won’t Hurt My Compensation Claim in Pennsylvania?
Even though comparative negligence cannot be used against victims if they were not wearing seat belts at the time of auto accidents in Pennsylvania, wearing a seat belt is still crucial.
Seat belts protect victims from serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents. A seat belt can keep you securely in your vehicle so that you do not go through the windshield or get ejected from your car during a crash. Seat belts also work in tandem with airbags. Together, airbags and seat belts provide much-needed protection for drivers and passengers.
All drivers and passengers under 18 must wear seat belts in Pennsylvania, regardless of their position in the car. Adult backseat passengers are not required to wear seat belts by law but should do so. Adults in the front seats of cars must wear seat belts. Not adhering to Pennsylvania’s seat belt laws can result in fines.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury for front-seat passengers by 45%. When passengers wear seat belts, the risk of sustaining moderate to critical injuries is reduced by 50%.
So, even though not wearing a seat belt won’t impact your ability to recover full compensation if you are hurt in a car accident in Pennsylvania, it can increase your chances of being fined for a violation or being seriously injured in a crash.
Can Other Acts of Negligence Hurt My Car Accident Compensation Claim in Pennsylvania?
Although it is made expressly clear in Pennsylvania law that a victim’s failure to wear a seat belt does not constitute contributory negligence and thus cannot reduce the compensation awarded to them in a lawsuit, the same is not true of other negligent acts.
Not wearing a seat belt is irresponsible and can result in victims sustaining more serious injuries in car accidents. While it won’t affect a victim’s recovery, comparative negligence might still apply to a case. For example, suppose you were speeding at the time of the accident. If another driver negligently merged into your lane and struck you in the process, your negligence might factor in. Suppose the court decides you were partially at fault because you were speeding, but the other driver was more at fault because they failed to check the lane they were merging into. In that case, your compensation might be reduced proportionally to your percentage of fault.
All that is to say, drivers are not immune from comparative negligence impacting their recovery in all cases. It is important to understand this and always drive responsibly.
That said, assertions of contributory negligence by defendants are not always valid. Suppose a negligent driver attempts to pressure you into settling and claims that your compensation will be reduced because you were not wearing a seat belt. In that case, our Bala Cynwyd car accident lawyers can expose the truth and explain that such arguments are not valid defenses in motor vehicle accident lawsuits. We can also gather evidence that shows the other driver was the only one who acted negligently during your car accident in Pennsylvania.
Call Our Pennsylvania Attorneys About Your Car Accident Case
Call our Stroudsburg, PA car accident lawyers today at (215) 709-6940 to set up a free case review with The Reiff Law Firm