Does Not Wearing a Seatbelt Affect an Accident Claim?

March 17th, 2021 by Rieders Travis in Car Accidents

Seat with seatbelt in focus

If you did not buckle up before being involved in an accident, you may wonder, “Does not wearing a seatbelt affect an accident claim?” The short answer is “no.” If you are severely injured in an accident, don’t spend any time or energy second-guessing yourself. Move on with your life and focus on recovery.

The fact that you were not using seatbelts can’t be used by an insurance company to show that:

  • You are to blame for the accident, or
  • Your decision caused your injuries or made them worse.

Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann will not let insurance companies play these games. We will not allow them to break the rules, so our clients won’t be cheated out of any of the compensation they deserve.

Not Wearing A Seatbelt and Your Accident Claim Is a Very Different Matter than Your Safety

There is a good reason that the law requires seatbelt use: it can be a matter of life and death. It is Pennsylvania law that a driver or passenger under 18 years of age must buckle up, according to Subchapter E of Chapter 45, Title 75 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes. Drivers 18 or older pulled over for a different violation can get a ticket if the driver or front-seat passengers are not wearing seat belts. Children under age eight must be properly restrained under state law. Even if a passenger falls outside some of these legal requirements, they should always wear a seatbelt. When doing so can prevent severe injury or death, it just makes sense.

Can I File a Lawsuit if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt?

That same law does not allow insurance companies to use the fact that seat belts were not used for any reason. Section 4585 states, “The requirements of this subchapter or evidence of a violation of this subchapter may not be used by an insurer for any purpose.” The attorneys at Rieders Travis will make certain that insurers don’t flout this law and deny you every opportunity to get the compensation you deserve after an accident.

A Pennsylvania Superior court ruled that the statute means what it says. Not using seatbelts may be dangerous, but it is a non-issue in a car accident case. So if you ask, “Can I file a lawsuit if I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt,” the answer is a resounding “yes.” Not having a seatbelt on at the time of an accident is not evidence that you’re at fault or to blame for your injuries. It will not impact an award of damages in a car accident case. Even if you were not wearing a seatbelt when you were injured, you can file a lawsuit.

Always Wear a Seatbelt

Just because not wearing a seatbelt will not impact your car accident claim, that isn’t a good reason to not worry about using one. Using a seatbelt is the best protection you can give yourself if you’re in a crash, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Wearing a seatbelt improves your chances of surviving a collision by up to 60 percent. You also have a better chance of staying conscious after the accident, possibly allowing you to get out of the vehicle if it catches fire.

If you are unrestrained, you are also a danger to others in the vehicle. You may be thrown around the car interior, striking other occupants or being ejected from the car. If that happens, you are 25 times more likely to be killed than if you were using a seatbelt.

If you are not wearing seatbelts, you’re in a small minority. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that in 2019, 90.7 percent of adults in front seats used seatbelts. The numbers show why following the crowd is a good idea. In 2017:

  • Of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle accidents, 47% did not use seatbelts.
  • It is estimated that seatbelts saved about 14,955 lives.
  • Their use could have saved another 2,549 people if they wore them.

Seatbelt Use Isn’t Just for Front Seats

Use your seatbelt no matter where you are sitting, no matter who is driving or who owns the vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted a survey, according to CBS News, that found:

  • About 91 percent of adults stated they wear seatbelts in the front seat on every trip
  • 72 percent claim they do the same when in the back seat.

It is especially important to use seatbelts if you’re in a hired vehicle or taxi. Your life is in the hands of someone you do not know. You probably never met the person before. You may be traveling at highway speeds. The survey found that only 57 percent of passengers buckle up in limousines, taxis, Uber, or Lyft vehicles.

We may get a false sense of security in the back seat. Federal crash statistics show that those sitting in the rear are three times more likely to die if they are not using seatbelts. The force of an accident travels throughout the vehicle, not just the front seats. Depending on the crash, side or T-bone accidents, as well as getting rear-ended, may put those in the rear at greater danger than those riding in the front.

Airbags Do Not Replace Seatbelts

You probably have airbags in your vehicle that could help protect you if an accident happens. However, they alone cannot keep you safe. They are designed to be used with belted occupants.

Sensors in the car will detect an accident’s happening. A signal is sent to a device that rapidly inflates the airbags. The force of their expansion is so strong that if you are not using seatbelts it could injure or kill you, according to NHTSA. To protect yourself from potential injury caused by an airbag’s inflation, wear your seatbelt. More important, to provide as much protection as possible in the event of an accident, you should wear your seatbelt.

Not Wearing a Seatbelt Does Not Affect Your Claim. Using a Lawyer Does.

If you or your loved one is injured in a vehicle accident caused by someone else’s negligence, call Williamsport car accident lawyer Cliff Rieders at (570) 323-8711 today. We are based in Williamsport, PA, but we help clients throughout Pennsylvania. You can have a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of positive results for clients like you.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]