As a Los Angeles car accident lawyer, a question that comes up from time to time is whether not wearing a seatbelt can affect one’s car accident case. The answer is yes.
To be clear, wearing your seatbelt is not only the law in California, but it has been shown to drastically reduce deaths and serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents. Most people appreciate this, and thankfully most people comply.
Nevertheless, failure to wear a seatbelt in an accident will not destroy a case, but it might damage it to some extent. This is because California allows defendants to assert the “seatbelt defense” as evidenced by California Civil Jury Instruction 712.
This particular jury instruction imposes the burden on a defendant to prove that:
a. Plaintiff’s vehicle had a working seatbelt;
b. A reasonable person in Plaintiff’s position would have used his/her seatbelt;
c. Plaintiff failed to wear his/her seatbelt;
d. Plaintiff’s injuries would have been less severe had he/she been wearing his/her seatbelt.
As mentioned, the defendant, or the one being sued, has to prove that the plaintiff wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, and therefore at-least partially responsible for his or her injuries. This is usally done by hiring biomechanical experts.
As with most defense arguments, there are ways to overcome the seatbelt defense. For questions about your Los Angeles or Orange County car accident case, my office is one phone call away.