Motorists and car occupants are required to wear seat belts throughout the State of Texas. This is a law that is intended to help make our roadways safer for all who travel on them. If, however, you are injured by another motorist’s negligence, the fact that you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident does not bar you from seeking fair compensation for the losses you suffer. If this is the situation you find yourself in, don’t wait to consult with an experienced Austin car accident attorney.
What’s In This Guide
- Seat Belts Save Lives
- Filing a Claim When Not Wearing a Seat Belt
- Shared Fault
- Your Losses
- The Other Driver’s Negligence
Seat Belts Save Lives
The National Safety Council (NSC) shares important Injury Facts related to seat belts, including:
- Since 1975, nearly 375,000 lives have been saved by seat belts.
- In 2017 alone. Seat belts saved the lives of almost 15,000 people.
- Using both lap and shoulder belts reduces the number of car occupant deaths for front seat passengers by 45 percent.
When you travel by car, you’re always safest when you have your seat belt on, but if you are not wearing yours when you’re injured by another driver’s negligence, you shouldn’t give up hope of receiving just compensation. While your total compensation may be reduced, not wearing a seat belt does not alter the fact that you were injured as a direct result of the other driver’s negligence, which allows you to move forward with your car accident claim.
Filing a Claim When Not Wearing a Seat Belt
In the past, Texas law deemed that seat belt usage was immaterial in car accident claims – and that not wearing a seat belt could not affect the compensation you received – but this had changed. Now, if you’re not wearing a seat belt, the at-fault driver can use the information in an attempt to diminish the compensation you receive. The idea behind this is that, although you did not cause the accident, the fact that you weren’t wearing a seat belt likely contributed to the severity of your injuries. As such, the court takes the following factors into careful consideration:
- The degree to which you not having a seat belt on contributed to your injuries
- Whether you not having a seat belt on amounts to you sharing fault for the accident (in relation to the circumstances at hand)
While car accident claims in which the claimant wasn’t wearing a seat belt are more challenging, they are by no means hopeless. Seeking the compensation to which you are entitled is well advised, and a dedicated car accident attorney can help you with that.
In the State of Texas, sharing fault for a car accident that leaves you injured does not mean you cannot seek compensation for the percentage of your losses that the other driver is responsible for. This is called comparative negligence, and in Texas, as long as you are not more than 50 percent responsible for the injury-causing accident, you can move forward with a claim. By way of simple example, let’s say that the court determines you are 20 percent responsible for the losses (or legal damages) you suffered because you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. This means that the compensation you receive will be reduced by this 20 percent. If the court ultimately awards you $20,000 in damages, this amount will be reduced by $4,000 (20 percent of $20,000), and you will be left with a court award of $16,000.
The losses you suffer in a car accident are likely to be considerable and, in addition to property damage to your car, they can be grouped into three basic categories.
Your medical expenses can be very steep from the outset, but if your injuries are serious, you could be looking at secondary health concerns and ongoing medical costs. Some of the most common medical needs include:
- Emergency care and transportation
- Surgical care
- Hospital stays
- Medical treatments, procedures, and tests
- Care from doctors and specialists
- Pain management
- Prescription meds
- Physical and/or occupational therapy
If you’ve been seriously injured, the recovery process can be lengthy, and it can mean time lost on the job, and the loss of wages that goes with this. If your earning capacity into the future is affected, your losses will be even more considerable.
Pain and Suffering
In addition to the losses that come with a price tag affixed, there is your physical and emotional pain and suffering to consider. Being left injured and vulnerable by someone else’s negligence can be an especially challenging emotional hurdle that should not be discounted in the calculation of your damages.
The Other Driver’s Negligence
Negligence on the part of the at-fault driver can take many forms, including:
- Distraction – Motorists owe their complete attention to the primary task of driving safely.
- Impairment – The physical, cognitive, and even sensory impairments that drunk drivers can experience make them exceptionally dangerous drivers.
- Exhaustion – Drowsy driving is far more dangerous and more prevalent that most drivers realize.
- Excess Speed – When drivers choose to exceed the speed limit or to drive too fast for the condition of the road, they allow themselves less time to safely react to any dangers they encounter and ensure that any ensuing accidents will be that much more dangerous.
- Aggression – When it comes to aggressive drivers, all bets are off. Aggressive drivers treat our roads like their own personal throughways and endanger all of us in the process.
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- Can I Pursue Compensation for an Austin Accident if My Driver’s License is Expired?
An Experienced Austin Car Accident Attorney Can Help
If you weren’t wearing a seat belt when you were injured in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, the practiced Austin car accident attorneys at The Patel Firm are standing by to help. Our legal team has a wealth of experience helping clients like you prevail with challenging cases, and we’re here for you too. For more information, please don’t wait to contact or call us at 361-400-2036 today.