Many people who do not wear a seat belt are injured in a car crash. The failure to wear a seat belt does not automatically bar a person from recovering damages. However, the failure to wear a belt may reduce a person’s damages depending on the circumstances.

EVERYONE IS REQUIRED TO WEAR A SEAT BELT

California law requires that everyone inside a car is required to be belted. A driver can be given a ticket for not making sure all of his occupants are belted.

NOT WEARING A SEAT BELT

Under California law, a person who was not wearing a seat belt is not barred from recovering damages. An unbelted person can still seek damages for medical bills and lost wages. He or she can also seek recovery for pain and suffering related to injuries suffered in a collision.

However, failure to wear a seat belt is often used as an essential defense by the insurance company to reduce damages. To succeed, the insurance company must show 1) that a belt was available, 2) that a reasonably careful person would have used the belt, 3) that you failed to wear the belt, and 4) that your injuries would have been avoided or less severe if you had used the belt.

EXPERIENCED PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER

I recommend you consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who will know how to properly evaluate your case. In addition, you should look for one with trial experience. As you interview lawyers, you should ask them about their experience, and in particular, trial experience. As a former insurance company lawyer who has been behind the curtain, I know how insurance companies defend cases and the strategies that are needed to overcome them. The objective of the insurance company is to minimize the value of your case. The company will hire an experienced trial lawyer to achieve that end, which is why it is important that you have a competent trial lawyer on your side. The company needs to understand that if a fair settlement offer is not made, your attorney is prepared to go to court. Many lawyers advertise their services, but very few will go to trial. Instead, they will refer your case out to someone else as the case gets closer to trial. One of the first things an insurance company does is check the trial experience of your lawyer. “Low-Ball” settlement offers are often made to lawyers who do not try cases. Before you hire a lawyer, do not speak with the other side or their insurance company. Do not give the insurance company a statement. It will be used against you.