Can Failing to Wear a Seat Belt Affect a Car Accident Claim?

January 18, 2021

In Pennsylvania, failing to wear a seat belt is illegal. What happens if a driver did not wear their seat belt when they were hurt in a car accident? Every state looks at seat belt use uniquely. It is important to understand how not wearing a seat belt could play a factor in assigning fault in a wreck.

A car accident does not happen because a driver or passenger forgot to wear a seat belt. However, a seat belt can contribute to the extent of injuries suffered and damages. For instance, a motorist who did not wear a seat belt was at greater risk of being ejected from a vehicle. Therefore, if the driver was thrown out of a car and was not wearing a seat belt, the insurance company adjuster may balk at paying for some medical expenses. From the adjuster’s point of view, the injuries the victim suffered probably would have been much less severe if the motorist was wearing a seat belt.

The seat belt defense is frequently used by insurance adjusters to prepare and negotiate lower claim settlement offers. A victim who does not retain the assistance of a lawyer may believe that they have to accept an unfair settlement or lose everything. In Pennsylvania, though, the seat belt defense will not work.

Can the Seat Belt Defense be Used in Pennsylvania?

An insurance adjuster who tries to offer less money to a victim because they did not wear a seat belt is violating state law in Pennsylvania. The state does not recognize the seat belt defense in determining fault or assessing damages. Therefore, if a victim gets injured in a crash in Pennsylvania, the victim’s seat belt use will not be a factor.

What is the Rule on Comparative Negligence?

In Pennsylvania, the rule of comparative negligence determines how much a victim can receive in damages after a personal injury. The state specifically follows modified comparative negligence. Modified comparative negligence means that a victim cannot be more than 50 percent responsible for a wreck. If the plaintiff is deemed at least 51 percent at fault, they will not receive damages. On the other hand, if a victim is deemed 10 percent responsible and damages are assessed at $150,000, the victim will receive only 90 percent of the agreed-upon damages.

The rule of modified comparative negligence will not be affected by whether or not a driver was wearing a seat belt in Pennsylvania. A car accident victim should consult with a lawyer to discuss the best ways to proceed for the compensation of medical bills and lost wages.

Delaware County Personal Injury Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Recover Damages for Injured Car Accident Victims

If you need help with your car accident case, a Delaware County personal injury lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can assist you. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 610-565-3701. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.