If you are pursuing an auto accident case, the defendant might raise the seatbelt defense to deny or minimize your damages. The premise of this defense is that you don't deserve compensation since you weren't wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Below are a few tips to overcome the defense.
Seatbelts Are Not Perfect
Some injuries are inevitable whether you are using a seatbelt during an accident. Seatbelts just reduce injuries and fatalities — they don't prevent all injuries. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seatbelts reduce injuries and death by half. This means half of auto accident victims will still die or experience injuries even if they are using seatbelts.
Not only that, but seatbelts also don't prevent all forms of injuries. A car's seatbelt works by:
- Keeping you inside the car
- Keeping you in the best position for maximum airbag protection
- Spreading the force necessary to stop your body from moving
A seatbelt cannot prevent a projectile from crashing into your head. Thus, in case of a T-bone crash that sends the other car into your passenger compartment, you can argue that the seatbelt couldn't have prevented your injuries.
Lack Seatbelts Don't Cause Accidents
Even if you had not fastened your seatbelt, the other driver was still negligent and need to pay for it. After all, you were not involved in the accident because you did not have a seatbelt on. The accident occurred because the other driver was negligent.
Consider a case where a distracted driver rear-ends you. You can argue that the accident could still have occurred if you had fastened a seatbelt. Thus, your lack of seatbelt should not prevent you from holding the real culprit liable for their actions.
Seatbelt Use Is Not Damage Mitigation
Motorists who raise the seatbelt defense argue that the law requires accident victims to mitigate their losses. The damage mitigation claim makes sense, at least on the surface. The government wants accident victims to take measures to minimize losses. For example, an accident victim should seek prompt medical care, follow doctor's orders, and tow their car to a safe location.
However, by definition, damage mitigation means the damage has already occurred. The mitigation takes place after the accident. Thus, fastening a seatbelt before an auto accident is not a form of damage mitigation.
An experienced lawyer can help you poke holes into the defendant's defense and negotiate a good settlement. The lawyer can also help you litigate the case in case the negotiations fail.
For more information on auto accident attorney services, reach out to a lawyer.