The Consequences of Not Wearing a Seatbelt

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Aug 29, 2012

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Recently, a woman was seriously injured in Alabama after she was thrown out of the window during a car accident and unfortunately landed in the path of the rolling vehicle. The car came to rest right on top of her, causing serious injury. She was taken to the hospital and treated for life threatening injuries, and now faces a lifetime of recovery. While there is no way of knowing how injured she would have been had the seatbelt kept her in the rolling car, it is worth noting that the driver (who was belted in) escaped unharmed.

Amazingly, stories like this about people who are injured because they don’t wear their seatbelts are still not uncommon. If you take the time to read about car accident injuries, you will start to notice that a number of people are seriously injured because they failed to wear their seat belts. Even though every state except New Hampshire has law that requires the use of a seat belt, many drivers and passengers simply ignore their safety belts when they get in a car. Whether you find seat belts un-cool or uncomfortable, you need to keep in mind the fact that car accidents without seat belts can be disastrous for a number of reasons:

  1. The risk of injury is much higher – Seat belts are widely recognized as a means of preventing or limiting injuries in a car accident. Occupants who ride in a vehicle without the use of a seatbelt do so with considerable risk of serious injury in a car accident.
  2. The cost of the car accident increases – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that amongst car accident survivors, unbelted victims stay 3 – 5 times longer in the hospital and have medical costs 2 – 7 times higher than victims who wear their seat belt. The physical recovery after a car accident will be challenging, and the added difficulty of managing the additional medical costs and ongoing treatments can make the process nightmarish.
  3. It can change your legal case – If you are injured in a car accident without a seat belt, then the amount of money you can recover may be seriously reduced. Depending on the car accident fault laws in the state you live in, your decision to not wear a seat belt can be devastating to your legal case against the parties responsible for the car accident. If your injuries were greatly enhanced because you were without a safety belt, then your contribution to the cause of your harm can have a crippling effect on any lawsuit.
  4. Your insurance costs may increase – If you use car insurance to recover for your injuries, then your insurance may increase substantially. If you were not wearing a seat belt in a car accident, insurance coverage may be limited or denied, and your premiums could increase after the claim.

The law that provides relief to injured parties after car accidents can be complex enough when everybody is buckled in at the time of the accident. A legal case arising from a car accident without seat belts will be even more complex because the nature of the injuries can be more severe, and the degree the victims contributed to their own injury can be difficult to determine.

Additionally, it is important for parents and other role models to note that studies indicate children closely mirror car safety they see from their elders. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if a driver is wearing the seat belt than children will wear theirs 94% of the time, but if the driver is unbuckled than children are only buckled 30% of the time.

Not wearing a seat belt creates increased risk of injury, increased risk of expensive medical bills, and increased risk of legal liability. It is a bad practice to engage in, and to pass along to any child. Whatever temporary discomfort a safety belt provides is not worth the risks or the costs.

If you have been involved in an accident, and your injuries were more severe because you were not wearing a safety belt, be sure to contact an experienced car accident attorney.

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