CAN I STILL RECOVER DAMAGES IF I WASN’T WEARING A SEATBELT?
Hoffspiegel Law Blog
If you are not wearing a seatbelt and are involved in a car crash, you may wonder, “Can I still recover damages even though I didn’t buckle up?” The answer depends on your state law and the circumstances of your case.
When you get into a car accident, your injuries can be much more severe if you do not wear a seatbelt. Many people mistakenly believe that they are not eligible for compensation for their injuries if they failed to wear a seatbelt at the time of the crash.
What is the Seatbelt Law in Georgia?
O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1 requires front-seat occupants of passenger vehicles to wear a seatbelt when the car is in motion. If you are involved in a car accident while not wearing a seatbelt, you will receive a traffic ticket for driving without a seatbelt.
However, if the other driver’s negligence caused your accident, you may still be able to recover damages even if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.
Recovering Damages if Not Wearing a Seatbelt
Generally, when an injured party’s negligence contributes to their own injuries, the evidence of their negligence is admissible to reduce the recovery of damages under the comparative negligence statute.
Whether or not evidence of the injured party’s failure to wear a seatbelt can be used as admissible evidence varies from one state to another. In some states, the negligent driver can use evidence of the plaintiff’s lack of seatbelt use to reduces the amount of damages that the victim can recover.
In other states, however, failure to wear a seatbelt cannot be used as evidence to reduce the plaintiff’s compensation.
Georgia Makes Evidence of Seatbelt Non-Use Inadmissible
Unlike many other states, Georgia does not allow the defendant to use evidence of the plaintiff’s failure to use a seatbelt to diminish the recovery of damages. Evidence of seatbelt non-use is prohibited under O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(d).
Under Georgia law, the injured party’s failure to wear a seatbelt is not considered evidence of “negligence” or “causation” to reduce their damages award.
The statute also does not allow insurance companies to deny an injured victim’s personal injury claim even if their failure to buckle up worsened their car accident injury.
Similarly, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-296 does not allow the use of evidence of a bicyclist’s failure to wear a helmet when the bicyclist is injured in a bicycle accident.
Therefore, whether or not a driver or front-seat passenger is wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident is irrelevant when pursuing compensation through a personal injury claim in Georgia.
Note: Since Georgia follows the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, you can still recover damages in car accidents even if you were partially at fault.
Contact an Atlanta Car Accident Attorney Today
If you were involved in an Atlanta car crash and your own negligence contributed to the accident, do not hesitate to speak with an attorney. Contact our Atlanta car accident attorneys Lloyd and Alex Hoffspiegel to discuss your particular case. Call (404) 760-8600 to schedule a consultation with our lawyers at Hoffspiegel Law.