Will Failing to Wear a Seatbelt Prevent Recovery of Damages in a Pennsylvania Injury Lawsuit?
Following a car accident, injured victims may be able to recover compensation for damages and losses if the other driver negligently or recklessly caused the collision. What happens if the victim was not wearing their seatbelt at the time of the accident? Can they receive money from the responsible party for their injuries? In some situations, injured individuals fear that failing to wear their seatbelt may affect the value of their car accident claim under Pennsylvania law.
Pennsylvania Follows the Comparative Negligence Doctrine: Failing to Wear A Seatbelt Cannot Be Evidence of Negligence
Negligence is a legal concept relevant to many car accident lawsuits. In personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff victim often pursues their claim under a negligence theory of law. Since all drivers owe others a duty to exercise reasonable care, when conduct falls short of this duty and causes an accident, that driver may be deemed negligent. Examples of negligence include speeding through a traffic signal, driving while texting on a mobile phone, and driving aggressively, among other careless and reckless conduct.
Under certain circumstances, both drivers involved in a car accident may have been negligent. The defendant and the victim would then share some responsibility for the resulting harm. Pennsylvania’s comparative fault law, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 7102, amended in 2011 as the Fair Share Act, allows victims to get compensated even if they contributed to the accident through their own negligence.
The law does state, however, that a plaintiff victim will recover compensation according to their degree of fault. An example would be a victim who is found to be 20% at fault, and who would then have their compensation reduced by 20%. Additionally, the law states that when a victim’s negligence is more than that of the other driver (51% or more), they cannot recover damages from the other driver.
Pennsylvania has a seatbelt law that mandates that all drivers and passengers, as well as children ages eight to 17, use seatbelt restraints. Children younger than this must use proper child safety seats. The law specifically states that drivers and front-seat passengers who are ages 18 and older are required to buckle up.
Statistics show that failing to wear a seatbelt can increase the risk of being seriously injured or killed in a vehicle collision. But for accident victims, not wearing a seatbelt does not necessarily constitute negligence under Pennsylvania comparative fault rules. Additionally, evidence that a plaintiff failed to wear a seatbelt cannot be used at trial.
If you or a loved one is facing the devastating consequences that follow a motor vehicle collision, the skilled car accident attorneys at Needle Law can advocate on your behalf. Together, our attorneys have decades of experience successfully securing compensation for people throughout Pennsylvania. We provide a complimentary consultation and can help you understand your legal rights and obligations. Call us at (570) 344-1266 or contact us through our online form.