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Understanding the seat belt defense

From the time you were old enough to sit in a car without a car seat, you probably heard admonitions to buckle up. In addition to parents and other adults reminding you of the importance of fastening your seat belt, your driver's education teacher probably impressed on you the value of using this safety device.

While public awareness campaigns these days focus more on the dangers of distracted driving, safety advocates have not forgotten their mission to promote this most basic act of caution: buckling your seat belt before you start your car. Colorado and numerous other states have seat belt laws that can affect the amount of damages an insurer pays following a motor vehicle accident.

Your claim is at risk

If you are involved in an accident that resulted from the negligence or recklessness of another driver, you would expect the other driver's insurance to cover the medical expenses and other costs related to your injuries and property damage. In many cases, this would be true. However, if you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of the accident, the other driver's insurer may contest the amount of damages you claim. This is called the seat belt defense theory.

With this defense, the insurer can suggest that your injuries may not have been as severe, or you may not have suffered injuries at all if you had worn your seat belt. The other driver may also employ the seat belt defense if you opt to pursue damages through a civil claim. If your opponent is successful in his or her use of the seat belt defense, the court may reduce the award you may have won in proportion to how much the seat belt may have prevented your injuries.

Your future depends on your recovery

As you can see, this defense may have some subjective elements, so if your opponent uses it, you will need a strong rebuttal. The compensation at stake may mean the difference between obtaining the medical services you need for a full recovery and being unable to pay for treatment for your injuries.

In addition to the seat belt defense, insurance companies often employ other tactics to minimize payouts for claims. When you face injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident, your future may be at risk. Seeking help from a legal advocate who has experience dealing with insurance companies means you do not have to handle this alone.

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