Can You Still Recover Compensation If You Weren’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

Published on Jul 9, 2024 at 6:38 pm in Car Accidents.

Since seat belts became standard in new cars, the number of injuries has decreased. According to data compiled by the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, the seat belt usage rate is around 89.8 percent. Sadly, half of all fatal road accidents happen to motorists who don’t buckle up.

Whether a motorist or passenger uses those restraints will be a factor in any insurance claim. Can you still recover compensation if you weren’t wearing a seat belt?

Kentucky Seat Belt Laws

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed by Congress in 1966. That law mandated that new vehicles be equipped with safety restraints as part of the standard package. Since then, it fell to each state to enact its own mandatory enforcement laws. Kentucky passed its law in 2006. It states the following:

  • Drivers and occupants of motor vehicles must wear seat belts.
  • The safety restraint must be appropriately adjusted and fastened.
  • Police can stop a car in violation of the law.
  • The ticket for the offense may not exceed $25.

If you have any kind of physical condition that stops you from buckling up, you need to carry proof of that condition from your doctor.

Comparative Negligence and Its Impact on Recoverable Compensation

In a personal injury lawsuit, liability must be assigned before a crash victim is eligible for any reimbursement. That means assessing who is at fault for the accident. Kentucky is a pure comparative negligence state.

Comparative negligence, often referred to as ‘shared blame,’ underscores the importance of individual responsibility in an accident. In a crash case that reaches a Kentucky court, a percentage of fault is assigned to each driver. In some instances, one driver may be assigned 100% of the fault, particularly if they were found to be speeding, driving under the influence, or distracted.

However, if you were not wearing a seat belt, which caused more severe injuries, you could be held partially at fault. For instance, a motorist could speed through a red light and collide with your car. At that point, they would be 100% at fault. Because you did not have your seat belt buckle and were injured, that fault percentage could drop to 70 or 60%. That would mean a reduction in any damages that you ask for. So, if you were awarded $50,000, you would only receive $35,000 or $30,000, depending on the percent decrease.

Potential Damages in Lexington Car Accident Cases

Even with the lack of safety restraints in play, you still may be able to seek financial compensation from an insurance company for accident-related losses, such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Car repairs
  • Rental car costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Ongoing physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Permanent disability

You can also request compensation for pain and suffering. This is especially the case if you endured chronic pain after your accident that led to insomnia, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, thus, a loss of consortium. Each element has a value that may not be diminished due to lack of seat belt usage.

Securing a Settlement If You’re Hurt in a Car Crash in Kentucky

The goal of any insurance agency is to collect premiums and avoid paying benefits. Those companies will look for any “loophole” to get out of a settlement. That is why allowing the qualified attorneys at the Peterson Law Office to be your advocates is essential. We understand the mitigating circumstances that factor into liability and comparative negligence determinations and will strive to support our clients through every step of their case.

Don’t let the lack of seat belt usage keep you from filing a claim for a fair remedy if a car accident seriously injured you in Lexington, KY. Call our offices today to discuss the merits of your incident. Consultations with our lawyers are free.

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