Can You File a Personal Injury Claim If You Were Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
Most Texans buckle up before they hit the road. It’s possible it has something to do with the catchy slogan embraced throughout the state, “Click it or ticket!” that keeps the possibility of a fine top of mind for drivers. However, many are still injured each year because they failed to use their seat belt or because their seat belt was defective. If you were in a Texas accident while not wearing a seat belt, or your seat belt was defective, you could face persistent opposition from the insurance company. But does not wearing a seat belt in a Texas car accident affect your ability to file a claim?
Texas State Seat Belt Law:
According to Texas state law, seat belts are required. In fact, anyone over the age of 15 can face criminal charges for not wearing a seat belt when one is available. Texas state seat belt law applies to drivers and passengers alike, regardless of where they are sitting in the car. Additionally, not wearing a seat belt doubles your risk of injury or death in a car accident (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More 986 unrestrained people died in Texas car accidents in 2018 with another 8,400 suffering injuries for the same reason.
Does Not Wearing a Seat Belt Mean I Can’t File an Injury Claim After a Car Accident?
If you or someone you know was in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt, it could impact your right to compensation. According to a 2015 Texas Supreme Court case ruling, evidence of a victim not wearing a seat belt can be used to prove comparative fault if their failure to use a seat belt contributed to their overall losses.
What is Comparative Fault?
In many car accidents, multiple parties hold portions of the blame. In other words, multiple parties contributed to the car accident. In order to determine fault after a Texas car accident, the court applies Texas’s comparative fault rules.
In Texas, you can still recover damages if you contribute to a car accident, but only if you were less than 51% at fault for the crash and the resulting injuries. The compensation is reduced based on the degree of fault you are assigned. For example, if the court determines you are 25% at fault for a car accident, and you have $200,000 in damages, you could potentially recover all, but 25% of the total damages or $150,000, in an injury claim.
Does Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Comparative Fault?
When there’s an injury claim involving a victim who was not wearing their seat belt, the insurance company often presents the victim’s failure to be properly restrained as the main reason for their injury. Get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney to get the help you’ll need preparing a solid defense against this type of argument.
Does a Defective Seat Belt Have the Same Effect on a Personal Injury Claim?
Sometimes seat belts do not function properly. When a seat belt fails during an accident or is defective, it can be devastating. A driver or passenger in the vehicle may have buckled up only have their seat belt release suddenly during the impact of a car accident.
- Defective seat belts may unlatch during a collision.
- Defective seat belts may appear to be latched before the crash, but not be completely engaged and releasing upon impact (even a minor impact could cause the release since it was not completely engaged).
- Defective seat belts may experience retractor failure or unspooling causing the fabric belt to loosen and not keep the occupant of the vehicle in place during an impact.
In some cases, a seat belt’s design may be defective; the design may not meet minimum safety requirements to protect people of all shades and sizes.
In some cases, a seat belt may be made of damaged or defective materials that cause a failure.
If you have been in a car accident and you were wearing a defective seat belt, you may have a product liability claim involving the manufacturer, the distributor or other companies involved in the creation or placement of the seat belt. In the last decade, millions of vehicles have been recalled by major automakers due to defective seat belt systems. The problem is not uncommon. If you feel you may have been involved in an accident while wearing a defective seat belt, seek the assistance of an experienced Texas personal injury attorney as quickly as possible so they can collect and preserve any available evidence to support your claim.
If you are in an accident on the road in Texas, don’t hesitate to call the experienced team at Carrollton’s Hudson Law Firm, we put the “personal” back into personal injury law.