I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when I was in a car crash. Can I still recover damages?

liability and seatbelt useWhether you simply forgot or had unbuckled for just a moment, drivers and passengers are in car accidents all the time without the protection of a seatbelt. While we know that seatbelts are important tools to keep us safe, it’s impossible to anticipate when a car accident will occur, and we may be caught at just the wrong moment. What does that mean for crash victims who have suffered injuries because of another driver’s recklessness on the road? Is it still possible to recover compensation if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt?

The short answer is yes. At-fault drivers are responsible for the injuries they cause on the road. Crash victims can pursue a legal claim against the driver (and his insurance company) to obtain compensation for medical care, lost wages, property damages, pain and suffering, and more.

Alaska’s Seatbelt Defense

However, the state does permit at-fault drivers to use what is known as the seatbelt defense to mitigate the amount of damages awarded. If a driver or passenger is not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, the compensation could be reduced to reflect their role in their own injuries.

Alaska is what is known as a pure comparative negligence state. This means that the fault for an accident is assigned as a percentage to all those involved, and compensation is awarded equal to that percentage. With the seatbelt defense, at-fault drivers may attempt to claim that the victim’s failure to use a seatbelt constitutes a degree of fault. They would claim that had you been wearing a seatbelt, your injuries would have been less severe or even nonexistent.

An Effective Attorney Can Protect Your Rights

Seatbelt use is a primary law in Alaska, which means that law enforcement can stop drivers for no other reason except for driving unrestrained. Violation of this law during an accident can at times negatively impact a legal claim, but every situation is unique. The at-fault driver would bear the burden of offering proof that your injuries would have been different if you had been wearing a seatbelt, and the failure to use a seatbelt does not negate your rights entirely. An experienced attorney can help you understand the laws and your rights, as well as prepare a compelling case on your behalf.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident, whether you were wearing your seatbelt or not, you have rights to care and compensation. Call The Law Office of Ben Crittenden today to speak with Ben and find out how he may be able to help.