Walking After Dark: The Rights of Pedestrians in Nighttime Car Accidents
Posted in: Legal Blog
KNR Legal Blog
It’s true. The act of not wearing a seat belt does not automatically exclude you from seeking compensation for your injuries and financial losses related to a car accident. Nonetheless, whether you wear your seat belt will be crucial in how your claim or lawsuit proceeds and, ultimately, how much compensation you can recover.
Let’s unravel the legalities of seeking damages after a car accident in Ohio if you were not wearing a safety belt.
Seat belts have been federally mandated since 1968. Every Ohio driver, front-seat passenger, and child between 8 and 15 must legally use seat belts. Children under eight must be in appropriate child safety seats. But not everyone abides by the law.
As a result, far too many people are still being injured and killed in auto accidents. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), unrestrained occupants currently account for 51% of car accident deaths.
But what happens if you’re involved in an accident but aren’t wearing your seat belt?
When a vehicle occupant isn’t wearing a seat belt during a collision, the physical damage inflicted is usually much more significant than a restrained occupant, even a minor fender bender. Without the restraining force of a seat belt, individuals are likely to experience the full impact of the collision, which may result in colliding with the vehicle’s interior or ejection from the car, leading to devastating injuries.
Consider the following scenario – You’re driving, and a reckless driver rear-ends your car. The crash’s force likely propelled you forward if you were not wearing a seat belt. A seatbelt would have helped keep you stable from the start. However, without a seat belt, your body absorbs the collision’s kinetic energy. Your head might collide with the windshield, potentially causing a severe concussion. You could also suffer whiplash, spinal injuries, or broken bones from colliding with the steering wheel.
Despite the critical importance of seat belts, not wearing a seatbelt doesn’t necessarily make you entirely accountable for your injuries. But it could influence your degree of responsibility.
When assessing legal options after an accident, one might wonder, “Can I still sue for damages if I wasn’t wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident?” Contrary to common belief, the answer is yes.
However, the success of your claim largely hinges on your ability to prove the other driver’s negligence. If there’s sufficient evidence that the reckless or irresponsible behavior of the other driver or another party led to your accident and injuries, your chances of a successful personal injury claim are much higher.
Under Ohio law, if you are not more responsible than the other negligent driver, you may still recover financial compensation. However, under the state’s comparative negligence laws, the amount you recover will be reduced by your percentage of blame for the injuries related to not wearing a seatbelt. You will be denied any compensation if you are deemed more than 50% responsible.
Imagine that another driver ran a red light and collided with your car. Your injuries will likely be exacerbated if you aren’t wearing a seatbelt. Under Ohio law, if running the red light constituted 80% of the reason for the collision itself and your failure to wear a seatbelt only accounted for 20% of the injury severity, then any compensation would be reduced by 20%. Thus, if you were awarded $100,000, you would only receive $80,000. However, you can’t receive compensation if your lack of a seatbelt made you 50% or more to blame for your injuries.
In situations where you were not wearing a seat belt, the other driver will try and prove you were more responsible for your injuries than they were because you failed to protect yourself. They will try to say that not being buckled up was a greater factor than their colliding with your vehicle.
Essentially, they’ll argue that your decision not to wear a seatbelt — an established safety measure — contributed significantly to your injuries, perhaps even more than their own actions did.
Suppose you were driving through an intersection, and a driver going the opposite direction turned left without yielding, colliding with your vehicle. You weren’t wearing a seatbelt, so you were thrown forward, sustaining serious injuries. In response to your lawsuit, the other driver (or their insurance company) may concede that they were at fault for the collision. However, they would argue that your decision not to wear a seatbelt played a more significant role in the injuries you sustained. Their attorney might even bring in a medical expert to testify that their injuries would have been far less severe had they worn a seatbelt.
This strategy draws on the principles of comparative negligence. If a court finds their argument convincing, they could rule that your failure to wear a seatbelt made you 51% liable, which would bar you from compensation.
No question wearing a seatbelt reduces your risk of serious injury in the event of a collision. But you should not bear undue hardship for the negligent actions of others. In addition, how wearing or not wearing a seat belt affects your injuries depends on various factors, best explained and considered by an experienced legal professional.
Sadly, many insurance adjusters use not wearing a seatbelt as a scare tactic to dissuade people from seeking the compensation they rightfully deserve. A knowledgeable attorney with your best interests in mind can help evaluate the nature of how you were injured and mitigate any complications related to not wearing a seatbelt.
At Kisling, Nestico & Redick, we will aggressively counter the other side’s assertions that your decision to forego a seatbelt was more significant than the at-fault driver’s actions. Armed with experience and a thorough understanding of personal injury laws, we’ll gather compelling evidence, utilize expert witnesses, and highlight the other party’s negligence.
Not wearing a seat belt can complicate your claim, but it does not close the door on your rights. To find out more about your options and to discuss your case, don’t hesitate to contact KNR’s Ohio car accident lawyers at 1-800-HURT-NOW or submit a request online.
We offer 100% free consultations, don’t charge upfront fees, and there’s no cost unless you recover compensation.