What is California’s “Seat Belt Defense”?

close up of a driver's hands buckling their seat belt

California is one of the few states that allow for a seat belt defense. This defense is used when someone has been injured in a car accident and they are either not wearing their seat belt or wearing it improperly. It is important to understand what this defense entails and how it can be used against you if you are making a claim for damages. Let’s take a closer look at California’s “seat belt defense”.

What is the Seat Belt Defense?

The seat belt defense allows defendants to reduce their liability in certain cases, specifically those involving an individual who was not wearing a seat belt at the time of a crash or was wearing it improperly. The defendant can argue that the plaintiff's injuries were made worse by their own negligence in not wearing a seat belt or wearing it incorrectly. In other words, if the plaintiff had been wearing their seat belt properly, then they would not have been as seriously hurt as they were.

How Can It Be Used Against Me?

If you are making a claim for damages after being involved in an automobile accident, then the defendant may use the seat belt defense against you if you weren’t wearing your seat belt or were wearing it improperly at the time of the crash. This could result in your award being reduced or even completely denied depending on the injuries sustained.

However, it’s important to note that in order for this defense to have validity, the defendant would need to prove that your injuries would have been less severe if a seat belt had been worn.

The Importance of Always Wearing Your Seat Belt

All drivers and passengers should always wear their seat belts, no matter where they are going and regardless of how short of a distance they plan on traveling. The fact is that most automobile accidents occur close to home and don’t involve high speeds—so don’t think that just because you’re driving slowly or only going around the corner that it isn’t necessary to wear your seat belt! It could save your life one day, so make sure you always buckle up before getting behind the wheel.

Fowler | Helsel | Vogt is a premier California personal injury law firm helping individuals and their families seek compensation following a severe injury-causing incident. Schedule a free case evaluation today by calling (559) 900-1280.

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