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Failure to Use Seat Belts is Not a Bar to Recovery for Car Accident Injuries

In a recent criminal case in Georgia involving a hit-and-run accident, the court did not allow evidence that the car crash victim was not wearing a seat belt when he was ejected from his vehicle after impact and died.   The court stated that the victim’s failure to wear his seat belt was not relevant in determining the cause of his death.

Georgia law requires that all persons in the front seat of a passenger vehicle wear a seat belt.  The seat belt law applies to all occupants in any motor vehicle, including pickup trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles, and any vehicle designed to carry 15 or fewer passengers.

We all know that seat belts are one of the first lines of defense to protect you from injury while in a motor vehicle.  This is especially true in rear-end collisions, T-bone accidents and head-on collisions.  Wearing a seat belt is crucial in avoiding serious injury in such types of accidents.

However, if a person in a passenger vehicle is involved in an accident and was not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact, any evidence of that fact is not allowed in a civil case to prove causation or comparative negligence of the victim.  In other words, if you were involved in an accident and were not wearing a seat belt at the time, the at-fault driver cannot use the fact that you failed to wear a seat belt to claim that you were at fault for causing the accident or your injuries.

If you were not wearing your seat belt and sustained injuries in an accident, the at-fault driver may try to claim that your injuries were caused by your failure.  This is known as the “seat belt defense.”  The at-fault driver and the insurance companies often try to use the seat belt defense to try to reduce the amount of damages you can recover for your injuries.

However, in order to so, the defense is required to show that the extent of the injuries could have been reduced by the use of a seat belt.  If the at-fault driver or the insurance company cannot prove that your injuries would have been less severe if a seat belt was worn at the time of impact, then they may not be able to use the seat belt defense to reduce the amount of damages you are entitled to.   For example, if sustained an injury to your knees or hit your head on the windshield as a result of the impact, the at-fault driver or the insurance company will need to be able to provide evidence that your injuries would have been less if you had been wearing a seat belt.  If the other side cannot establish a definite causal link between your failure to wear a seat belt and the injuries sustained, then the seat belt defense may not be successful.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of a car accident, talk to an attorney at our firm, and learn about your rights to compensation after an injury. The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent victims of auto accidents in the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia. Initial consultations are free.