The seat belt defense is used by a driver who causes an accident and wants to reduce their responsibility of covering the medical costs of the victim.
If the injured party was not wearing a restraint at the time of the incident, they will only be able to receive partial compensation in the case of the seat belt defense. They can only claim the costs of what their injuries would have been if a seat belt was used.
Seat Belt Defense Theory
The seat belt defense is based on torts law. Torts are legal claims that arise from injuries caused by accident or negligence, rather than intentional criminal behavior. This defense only applies if the car accident was not caused intentionally. There are two torts that are generally associated with this:
- Comparative Negligence
Some states employ the comparative negligence theory. Under this theory, the liabilities of both parties involved in an accident are examined. For example, if one driver cut someone off resulting in a crash, but the other driver was speeding, then both drivers might be held responsible. Not wearing a seat belt carries the risk of being found partially at fault for all injuries sustained
- Failure to Mitigate Damages
When the injured party fails to take reasonable actions to limit the extent of their injuries, they may receive reduced compensation. Failure to mitigate damages usually refers to actions taken after an accident occurs; however, some states consider the driver’s choice to not wear a seat belt as failure to mitigate damages prior to the event.
Jurisdictions and the Seat Belt Defense
There are 15 states that allow the use of the seat belt defense– Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Hawaii, North Dakota, Indiana, Mississippi, and Nevada do not have fully developed seat belt defense laws.
The remaining 30 states currently have no seat belt defense in place.
Why You Should Wear a Seat Belt
All 50 states have some degree of seat belt laws, but the CDC outlines several other reasons as to why you should always wear a proper restraint in a motor vehicle.
- Seat belts dramatically reduce the risk of death by 45 percent and cut the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.
- Seat belts prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected during a crash.
- 53 percent of drivers and passengers killed in car crashes in 2009 were not wearing restraints.
- Seat belts save thousands of lives each year. In 2009, restraints saved almost 13,000 lives.
Get Help After an Accident with Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton
Even though Utah does not practice the seat belt defense, you should still contact a personal injury lawyer to assist you in the legal process after your accident. At Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton, we are here to help you handle the aftermath and receive the compensation you deserve.
We have offices throughout Utah County and West Jordan, Utah. Schedule your free case evaluation today.