no seatbelt during car accident

Are You Still Eligible for Compensation If You Did Not Have Your Seatbelt on During a Crash?

If you have been injured in an automobile accident, and if you did not have your seat belt on when the accident happened, you might be wondering whether you are eligible to be compensated for your injuries.

The short answer to your question is – yes. Georgia law does allow you to seek compensation for your injuries and other losses – even if you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of the accident.

The Seatbelt Law in Georgia

Section 40-8-76.1 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) – commonly referred to as the seatbelt law – states that drivers and front seat occupants of passenger vehicles must wear a seatbelt.

However, the seatbelt law cannot be used against you in an automobile accident claim for two important reasons.

Firstly, there are exceptions to the seatbelt law. These include:

  • Drivers who need to make frequent stops to deliver goods or for other purposes – while not exceeding the speed limit of 15 mph
  • Drivers or passengers who are unable to wear a seatbelt due to a medical condition
  • Drivers reversing their vehicle
  • Drivers delivering newspapers and magazines
  • Drivers performing an emergency service
  • People who drive vehicles that were made before 1965
  • Letter carriers employed by the United States Postal Service

If you fit into any of the aforementioned categories, you are exempted from the seatbelt law.

Secondly, and more importantly, section 40-8-76.1 of the OCGA explicitly states that violation of the law (failing to wear a seatbelt) does not constitute negligence on the victim’s part.

Does it mean that not wearing a seatbelt does not have any effect on your automobile accident claim? Certainly not. It can make it harder for you to recover the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries.

The Modified Comparative Negligence Doctrine in Georgia

Georgia follows a modified version of the comparative negligence doctrine, under which you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries as long as you were 49% or less at fault for the accident. If you are found to be 50% at fault, you lose the right to recover compensation from the at-fault party.

Also, the amount of compensation awarded to you will be reduced in proportion to the degree or extent to which you were at fault. For example, if you are awarded $200,000 for your injuries, and if you are found to be 20% at fault for the accident, your compensation will be reduced by 20% and you will only receive $160,000.

This is the reason why insurance companies in Georgia tend to use the seatbelt defense – the argument that the victim contributed to their own injuries by failing to wear a seatbelt.

As mentioned above, the seatbelt defense cannot be used to deny your claim, since the law clearly states that not wearing a seatbelt does not constitute negligence. However, the insurance company will make the argument that you are to be partially blamed for the accident and your compensation should be reduced proportionately.

For example, if they manage to convince the jury that you were at 25% fault for the accident, you will lose 25% of your compensation, which is unfair to say the least. This is precisely why you need an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side.

How a Georgia Automobile Accident Lawyer Can Help You

Depending on the circumstances that led to the accident, an experienced automobile accident attorney can counter the seatbelt defense by making the following arguments.

  • You are exempted from the seatbelt law (if you fit into any of the categories listed above).
  • The impact of the crash was such that you would have sustained serious injuries even if you had worn your seatbelt.
  • You cannot be accused of failing to mitigate your injuries by not wearing a seatbelt, since it only applies to the actions you take after the accident.
  • The argument that you would not have suffered severe injuries if you had worn a seatbelt is more of a conjecture than an established fact. So, it is unfair to reduce your compensation based on it.

Choose the Right Georgia Automobile Accident Attorney to Handle Your Claim

For over 40 years, the personal injury attorneys at Stein & Fox have been fighting for the rights of injury victims in Georgia. We have represented thousands of clients over the years and have recovered more than $130 million in damages.

We can investigate your accident, collect the evidence required to establish the at-fault party’s liability, counter their allegations against you, and fight hard to recover the maximum amount of compensation possible through negotiation or litigation.

To find out how we can help you with your automobile accident claim, call our firm today at 770-961-1700 or contact us online and schedule a free consultation with one of our accomplished Georgia personal injury attorneys.

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