According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, more than 90 percent of Americans understand that wearing a seatbelt when traveling in a passenger vehicle is the safest choice to make.
Unfortunately, many people still choose not to wear a seat belt, dramatically increasing their risk of severe injuries in a crash. That may raise the question of whether you can be held partially liable for your injuries, even if the crash was caused by another driver’s negligence.
Below, learn more about crash claims involving victims who were not wearing their seat belts. Can the at-fault party use the seat belt defense to reduce the value of your claim?
Texas Seatbelt Laws
In Texas, anyone in a vehicle is legally required to wear a seatbelt. Children under the age of eight need to be in a child safety seat or a booster seat unless they are taller than four feet and nine inches, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Anyone who is found in violation of the law could face fines and court costs of up to $200.
If you are involved in an accident and it is determined you did not have your seatbelt on, be prepared to face a fine. If the collision is not your fault, you still have the legal right to file a claim against the person who caused the accident, even if you were not wearing a seatbelt. However, there is a chance the insurance company may try to use this factor to devalue your claim.
How Your Claim May Be Affected
The insurance company may argue you are at least partially responsible for your injuries because you did not wear a seatbelt, even though you are required to do so by law and statistics show they reduce your risk of serious injury in a crash.
It is unclear if this defense would hold up if your attorney took the insurance company to court. Texas courts did not allow evidence of non-use of a seat belt to be admitted at trial for many years.
In 2015, the Texas Supreme Court became the first in the state to allow such evidence to be presented. The court held this evidence could be presented if the party presenting it could prove failure to use a seat belt caused or contributed to the victim’s injuries. The court decided to make this change because seat belt use is mandatory in the state and because Texas uses a comparative fault approach for cases where the victim may be partially to blame.
If the insurance company can prove your injuries were caused, at least in part, by your failure to wear a seatbelt, there is a chance your claim may be devalued. On the other hand, you may be able to prove your injuries were not a result of failure to wear a seatbelt.
That is why it is important to work with an attorney, as these cases can quickly become complex. You need an experienced attorney who knows the tricks insurers use to attempt to deny or devalue claims. You also need an attorney who is prepared to challenge the insurance company in court, if necessary.
Comparative Fault Laws in Texas
Texas uses a modified comparative fault approach to assign fault for a car accident. The law states that your compensation may be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you for an accident, so long as you were less than 50 percent at fault.
For example, say a jury awards you $100,000 for your injuries, but you were found to be 30 percent at fault. Texas law would still allow you to recover $70,000 in compensation for your damages. However, if you were found to be 51 percent at fault, you would not be able to recover anything for your injuries.
This approach differs from the approach used in some other states, where an injury victim can recover compensation even if he or she is 99 percent at fault for an accident.
We May Be Able to Help. Call Today
The auto accident attorneys in Fort Worth are prepared to help you deal with the insurance company and pursue maximum compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages caused by the accident.
Our attorneys will review your claim at no cost to you and we do not charge you anything while we work to build your case. You only pay us if we recover compensation for you.
Call us today at (817) 920-9000 to schedule a free consultation.