We all know that the law requires us to wear our seat belt in most circumstances when we are driving our cars down the road. The actual requirement from the statute, in lawyer terms, is “each occupant of a motor vehicle manufactured with seat belts shall have a seat belt properly fastened about his or her body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion on a street or highway in this State.” But, like the speed limit, there are a lot of people that interpret the “shall” as a “should” and treat the law more like a guideline. Occasionally, these people will be in an accident.
In recorded statements I see from insurance companies, there are quite a few adjusters that will ask the claimant whether they were wearing their seat belt when the collision occurred. This raises a good question, which I have been asked by clients and other individuals a few times before: If you sustain injury when a vehicle gets in a wreck, are you still covered by your insurance if you are not wearing a seat belt?
The answer is yes. Failure to wear your seat belt does not result in a loss of insurance coverage for your injuries, and it does not prevent you from pursuing a personal injury claim. I have seen some insurance adjusters attempt to argue that because an individual was not wearing their seat belt, they could not recover as they were contributorily negligent. The problem with this argument is that the evidence isn’t admissible in court. The statute specifically provides, “evidence of failure to wear a seat belt shall not be admissible in any criminal or civil trial, action, or proceeding except in an action based on a violation of this section or as justification for the stop of a vehicle or detention of a vehicle operator and passengers.”
Even though you can still recover if you are not wearing your seat belt and are in an accident, you should wear one all the time. You never know when an accident will occur, and buckling up is the law. Seat belts are designed to keep you safe, and can even save your life if you are in an accident. If you are one of the many people that will be traveling for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, please be safe and buckle up.
Disclaimer: The views of the author are his own. Nothing in this post should be construed to provide specific legal advice to any specific individual. The author qoutes large sections of the law in this post. The law was drafted by lawyers that used a lot of words to say something very simple. This is common among lawyers, and causes irritation amongst the public. The author occasionally gets asked why lawyers do this. He will qoute Will Rogers when answering, “every time a lawyer writes something, he is not writing for posterity. He is writing so endless others of his craft can make a living out of trying to figure out what he said. Course perhaps he hadn’t really said anything, that’s what makes it hard to explain.”