In all 50 states, you are required to wear a seat belt while operating a motor vehicle. However, in some states, such as Maryland, failing to wear a cannot be used as evidence of negligence when you are involved in an accident. Because the laws can vary from state-to-state, it's essential to seek legal counsel when you're involved in an accident and didn't wear a seat belt.
Car Accidents and Liability
Even if the other motorist caused the accident, some courts have ruled that the plaintiff may be partially at fault if he failed to take proactive steps to minimize damages. For example, some states hold motorcyclists partially responsible for their injuries if they fail to wear helmets.
When a piece of evidence cannot be introduced under state law, this means that the witnesses, lawyers, and other parties cannot state that either of the motorists was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. However, there might be exceptions such as if the case focuses on a defective seat belt having caused the accident.
What About in Other States?
Even if you reside in a state where the lack of a seat belt can be entered in as evidence, many states are pure comparative fault states. This means that you will be able to receive compensation for damages even if you were partially at fault. For example, if the other driver drifted into your lane and struck you, but you were not wearing a seat belt, the courts may reduce your recovery proportionate with the extent to where they find you responsible for the accident.
Some states also consider the issue of "failure to mitigate damages." If you fail to take the steps necessary to minimize your injuries after the accident, your recovery may be reduced. However, some states consider actions taken before the accident, such as failing to wear a seat belt, as a failure to mitigate damages.
Other Factors That Affect Comparative Negligence
While comparative negligence might not come into play with regard to seat belts, other factors might lead to you being found partially at fault such as whether you were speeding, whether you were following traffic lights, and the actions you took right before the crash.
When you believe that the other party caused your accident, you might find it strange that it feels like you are on trial yourself. However, with the help of an auto accident attorney who is licensed to practice in your state, you'll have an easier time countering the arguments made by the defense.