Mesa AZ | What if I wasn’t wearing a seat belt

Q:  I was recently in a serious car accident, and I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. The accident was the other driver’s fault, and I am planning to bring a personal injury claim against him in order to cover my medical costs. However, I was not wearing my seat belt at the time of the accident. Will the fact that I was not wearing my seat belt at the time of the accident have a negative effect on my personal injury claim?

A: Before answering your question, let’s discuss Arizona’s laws regarding seat belts. You can read about them in this issue brief from the Arizona Senate, and here at Arizona’s DMV website.

As you can see, Arizona law does require you to wear a seat belt while you are driving your car. A police officer cannot pull you over just because you don’t have a seat belt on, but he or she can cite you for not wearing your seat belt during a lawful stop.

So, you are legally required to wear your seatbelt while you drive your vehicle, but does this mean your personal injury claim will suffer because of your failure to do so when you got into an accident? As is often the case with legal questions, the answer is “it depends.”

If your case were to go to trial, the driver at fault for the accident could claim that you were also at fault for you injuries because you were not wearing your seat belt.  If the other driver’s claim against you were successful, it would not change anything about his fault for the accident. He could still be found completely at fault for the accident. It would only reduce the damages that you could win on your claim. Basically, the other driver would be saying, “I may have caused the accident, but your injuries would have been reduced if you were wearing your seatbelt, and that’s your fault.”

In the end, the jury will decide whether the other driver’s claim should succeed, and how much your damages should be reduced. Under Arizona law, the jury would have to find that the other driver proved the following for his or her claim to succeed:

1) That you did not use an available and operational seatbelt;

2) That your nonuse was unreasonable under all of the circumstances; and,

3A) Your nonuse caused injuries that would not have occurred had the seat belt been used.

3B) Your nonuse increased the injuries. The increase of injuries must be shown with reasonable probability.

(Depending on your case, the jury would either use 3A or 3B, not both)

After deciding on those factors, the jury will decide whether damages should be reduced because you did not wear a seat belt and, if so, by how much.

So, now you see why the answer to your question is “it depends.” It is possible that the fact you were not wearing your seatbelt when you got into an accident will negatively affect your personal injury claim against the person responsible. You could potentially have the amount of damages on the claim reduced. Whether this occurs will depend on how the jury evaluates the factors above. The jury’s evaluation will, in turn, depend on how and you and the opposite party present your cases and the strength and applicability of your respective evidence.

If you have further questions on this subject, it would be beneficial to contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Mesa AZ|I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt or another type of personal injury, call 480.461.5300.