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What is the Seat Belt Defense in a Car Accident Claim?

putting on seat belt before starting to driveIf you were not wearing your seat belt in the accident, you may be worried about whether you can still recover compensation. You may have heard about the so-called seat belt defense, which is when the at-fault party argues you would have been unharmed if you had worn your seat belt. Drivers who use this defense also argue they should not be held liable for the victim’s injuries and damages.

The experienced Harrisburg car accident lawyers at Schmidt Kramer can discuss this with you in a free consultation. You may still be eligible to pursue compensation, so schedule your free consultation today.

Does Pennsylvania Allow the Seat Belt Defense?

Under Pennsylvania law, all children under four years old must be seated and buckled in an approved child safety seat based on their age, weight and height. Children between the ages of four and eight must be in a booster seat. Children between 8 and 18 years old must wear a seat belt no matter where they are in the vehicle. All drivers and passengers in the front seat age 18 or older must wear a seat belt.

If the driver is pulled over for another offense, the officer can issue a ticket for any violations of seat belt laws.

In some states, defendants in car accident claims can use the seat belt defense to minimize their liability or avoid liability altogether. The defendant asserts the victim was partially negligent and responsible for his or her injuries because he or she failed to wear a seat belt. In some states, defendants can use this defense to prevent the victim from receiving any compensation. In other states, this defense can be used to reduce the victim’s recovery.

Pennsylvania law specially outlaws the use of the seat belt defense by an insurer for any purpose. The insurance company cannot bring up this information at trial to try to reduce its liability. Even though Pennsylvania law requires seat belt use, defendants cannot raise the seat belt defense to:

  • Show that the non-use of a seat belt constituted contributory negligence
  • Show that the victim would not have been injured if he or she was wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision
  • Rebut the victim’s own testimony that he or she was wearing a seat belt

Many defendants have tried to get around this rule, but Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly held that the seat belt defense law should be strictly enforced.

Nonetheless, some insurance companies may still try to use the seat belt defense to bully accident victims into settling their claims for less than they may be worth.

Where is the Seat Belt Defense Allowed?

While Pennsylvania does not allow use of the seat belt defense, there are 15 states that do allow this defense:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

While it is always important to wear your seat belt, it is especially important to wear your seat belt when traveling through one of these states where any financial compensation you receive in a car accident claim may be reduced if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision.

Other Consequences for Not Wearing Your Seat Belt

Statistics clearly show that wearing a seat belt may prevent you from being injured or being injured as severely. You may have a longer recovery if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

Contact Us to Learn More

If you were injured in a car collision, Schmidt Kramer is available for a free consultation. We may be able to negotiate for compensation or file a lawsuit on your behalf.

Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation. We do not get paid unless you do. (717) 888-8888