In general, if you’re injured in a car accident and the other driver is at fault, he or she may be liable for your injuries. You can get compensation for your medical bills as well as pain and suffering in court in these cases.
But what happens if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt? Failure to wear a seatbelt while traveling in the front of the car is against Ohio law, and the other driver may claim that you caused your own injuries by breaking this law. If that happens, who would be right?
The Seatbelt Defense
Ohio, like many other states, allows for the “seatbelt defense” against car accident related injuries. In other words, if you’re injured in a car accident where you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, the other driver can claim that failure to wear it as a defense against his liability.
However, the seatbelt defense is not an absolute defense in Ohio. Instead, Ohio law demands that your liability claim be capped at a lower amount than it would be if you sustained the same injuries while wearing your seatbelt.
For example, suppose you are entitled to $50,000 in compensation for an accident, but you were not wearing your seatbelt. In this case, the judge may determine that you are entitled to less than the full $50,000.
In some states, failure to wear a seatbelt is considered contributory negligence, which means that you contributed to your own injuries by not protecting yourself by wearing it.
This is not the case in Ohio. However, as explained above, a judge can deny you a portion of your claim because you were not wearing a seatbelt.
Furthermore, this policy only applies to non-economic compensation — that is, compensation for pain and suffering. Economic compensation, or compensation for lost wages or for money spent on medical care related to the accident, is not affected by whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that auto accident cases where one party was not wearing a seatbelt are complicated.
The best practice is to always wear your seatbelt. This protects you from getting a ticket at the scene of the accident for failure to wear a seatbelt as well as from losing any compensation in the event that someone else causes you injuries while you are driving.
If you were in an accident where you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, Friedman, Domiano & Smith can help! Contact us for your initial consultation today.