Are You Eligible for Compensation If You Were Not Wearing Your Seat Belt During a Car Accident?
Many people understand car accidents can lead to serious and debilitating injuries. They also know that not wearing a seat belt can contribute to the severity of these injuries. For these reasons, many states have decided that if you are involved in a car accident and have failed to buckle up, you may be found contributorily negligent for the injuries you suffered as a result of the motor vehicle accident. Fortunately, Louisiana is not one of these states.
Yet, many Louisiana car accident victims do not know or understand these seat belt laws and, as a result, are too embarrassed to pursue legal action for the injuries they endured. However, with the help of this blog post, we hope to provide you the clarification you need in terms of seat belts and car accidents.
This blog post will explain whether you are eligible for compensation if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of your car accident, go over the specific seat belt laws in Louisiana, and show you how an experienced personal injury attorney can help you in this situation.
What is a Seat Belt Defense and How Can It Impact Your Claim
If you were injured in an automobile accident, it is not unusual for the insurance company or the defendant to find any argument they can to claim that you were at fault or partially at fault for the accident. This includes arguing that you failed to wear a seat belt. The other side will try to claim that because you did not take steps to protect yourself by wearing a seat belt. They should not have to be required to pay for all of the damages you endured.
Usually, under comparative negligence law, when you are at fault for any part of the accident, your potential damages can be reduced in proportion to your degree of responsibility. However, Louisiana no longer recognizes these seat belt defense laws. As a result, injured parties who were not wearing a seat belt at the time of their accident can still recover maximum compensation for their medical bills and other costs resulting from the accident.
Seat Belt Gag Laws in Louisiana
There is an obligatory seat belt law in Louisiana that requires all the occupants in a vehicle to buckle up when the automobile is in motion. Yet, even though a violation of this safety belt law can result in a fine. The law also indicates that a safety belt violation is not considered evidence of comparative negligence. Meaning that another motorist cannot assert that you are not entitled to receive full compensation for your damages because you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of the crash. However, this also does not mean that an insurance company will not try to use this argument to lower the amount of money they will offer you. In fact, because the insurance company is a business that wants to make a profit, they will try any tactic they can to limit the amount of money they award you or try to deny your claim altogether. That is why an insurance adjuster will not tell you that the law prohibits this type of safety belt defense. Instead, they will try to make it seem that the whole accident was your fault because you failed to put on your safety belt.
For these reasons, it is imperative that following a car accident, you work with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who understands the state’s seat belt laws and can fight for the compensation you are entitled to.
Proving Fault and Damages
Even though the laws allow you to pursue maximum damages for a car accident, even if you were not wearing a seat belt. Before you can recover any of this compensation, you need to still prove fault and damages. Specifically, you need to satisfy the following four elements:
- Duty: The liable driver owed you a duty of care to drive carefully, reasonably, and in a prudent manner.
- Breach: The liable party breached this duty of care, either by violating traffic laws, speeding, or driving recklessly under existing circumstances at the time of the accident.
- Causation: This breach led to a car accident, which resulted in your direct injuries.
- Damages: You sustained injuries and damages as a result of this motor vehicle accident.
Type of Compensation You May Be Entitled To
If you can show that the other party was at fault for your injuries, you may be entitled to certain damages, including economic and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages: These damages are the actual losses that result from a motor vehicle accident. They include:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses, including hospital stays, ambulance services, surgical procedures, doctor visits, and prescription medications
- Past, current, and future lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- At-home nursing care
- Replacement services including cleaning services or child care services
- Rehabilitative care including physical and occupational therapy
- Personal property damages
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-economic Damages: These damages are rather subjective losses that result from the accident and are not easily quantified. They include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental Anguish
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life and activities
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of reputation
In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. However, unlike the other two damages, which are intended to compensate the victim, punitive damages were created to punish the defendant and to deter them and others from committing the act again in the future. For these reasons, these types of damages are rarely awarded.
Let an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Go After the Damages You Have a Right To
Quite often, if a victim was injured in a car accident but was not wearing a seat belt. They tend to shy away from pursuing recovery for their injuries because they feel they were at fault. As a result, many of these victims miss out on the compensation they need to help them cover their mounting bills and medical expenses. We are here to tell you- do not let this happen to you.
Retaining an experienced personal injury attorney following your car accident can help you go after the monetary damages you deserve, even if you were not wearing a safety belt at the time of your accident. These lawyers can:
- Go over your questions and concerns, help you understand the safety laws in the state, and provide you with the best legal options you can pursue
- Investigate the accident thoroughly, gather critical evidence, and interview relevant witnesses that can help establish liability and damages
- Handle negotiations and discussions with the other side, making sure your case is treated fairly and with respect
- If the other side is unwilling to negotiate, take your case to trial and fight for maximum damages
If you or a loved one has been harmed in a motor vehicle accident, no matter if you were wearing a seat belt. Do not wait any longer. Contact us today and let a skilled personal injury attorney fight for the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.