What if I wasn’t wearing a seat belt during my car accident?

What happens when an unrestrained person is involved in a collision that wasn’t their fault? Will their failure to buckle up negatively affect a personal injury claim? If you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision, you might feel an added layer of guilt and worry about how this decision could impact your ability to seek compensation for your injuries.

pregnant woman wearing a seat belt

It’s common to fear that you may be in trouble with the law or that the insurance company will try to use your lack of seatbelt use against you. You are not alone. Many people have found themselves in similar situations. Not wearing a seatbelt does not necessarily mean that you are barred from seeking compensation for your injuries if the accident was caused by another party’s negligence.

What is contributory negligence?

Insurance companies may attempt to claim not wearing a seatbelt constitutes contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence is the legal doctrine in Virginia that provides that a plaintiff’s negligence, no matter how slight, that contributes in some way to their injuries bars the plaintiff from recovery for those injuries. If the plaintiff is found guilty of any contributory negligence at all, it doesn’t matter how negligent the defendant was.

Insurance companies may argue that the injury would not have happened – or would have been less severe – if the plaintiff simply followed the law and wore their seatbelt.

negligent driver

What states still practice contributory negligence?

  • Alabama
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.

Will not wearing a seatbelt make me contributorily negligent in Virginia?

Under Va. Code §46.2-1094(D), not wearing a seatbelt will not amount to negligence. The law also says that the failure to buckle up cannot be used to reduce or diminish the plaintiff’s compensation to address their injuries. In fact, the law specifically declares that evidence of one’s failure to wear a seatbelt is not admissible at trial.

woman putting on seat belt


What is comparative negligence?

Contributory negligence is no longer widely used in the United States. Most states have done away with this challenging facet of law, and some have adopted “comparative negligence.” This tenet of law doesn’t prohibit a plaintiff’s recovery, but instead potentially lessens the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover based on the degree of their negligence.

Dangers of not wearing seat belts

Click It or Ticket” is a phrase that most Virginia drivers are familiar with. The state’s longstanding marketing campaign reminds everyone to wear their seatbelt or face the costly penalty of being cited by law enforcement. Despite the persistent warnings, some folks still fail to use their seat belts at all times. This mistake can have serious and potentially fatal consequences if a car accident occurs.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seatbelts and child restraints reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45% for front-seat passengers and by 60% for passengers in light trucks. Unrestrained occupants are more likely to suffer from serious injuries such as head trauma, spinal cord damage, and internal organ injuries. These injuries can lead to substantial medical expenses, lost wages, and a prolonged recovery period.

Myths and realities of seat belt use

Myth 1: “I don’t need a seatbelt if I’m only driving a short distance.”

Reality: Accidents can happen at any time, regardless of the distance you’re traveling. In fact, most car accidents occur close to home, often during short trips to nearby destinations like grocery stores or schools. No matter how brief your journey may be, wearing a seatbelt is always essential for your safety.

Myth 2: “Seatbelts can trap me in the car during an accident.”

Reality: While it’s a frightening thought to be trapped in a car after a crash, the truth is that wearing a seatbelt significantly increases your chances of remaining conscious and able-bodied, allowing you to escape the vehicle if necessary. In contrast, not wearing a seatbelt can lead to severe injuries or unconsciousness, making it more difficult to exit the car or call for help.

Serious injury in car accidents where occupants were not wearing seatbelts

Some of the most common and devastating injuries associated with being unrestrained during a collision include:

Head trauma: When a car crashes, occupants who are not properly restrained can be thrown forward, causing their head to strike the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield. This can result in skull fractures, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). TBIs can lead to long-term cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes that significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.

Spinal cord injuries: The force of an accident can cause an unbelted person’s body to be thrown in unnatural positions, leading to severe damage to the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis, loss of sensation, and other permanent disabilities. These injuries often require extensive medical treatment, rehabilitation, and lifelong care.

Internal organ damage: During a collision, sudden deceleration can lead to life-threatening injuries such as ruptured spleens, punctured lungs, and internal bleeding. Internal organ damage may not be immediately apparent, making it important for accident victims to seek prompt medical attention.

Facial injuries: An unbelted occupant’s face can strike various parts of the car’s interior, causing lacerations, fractures, and dental damage. These injuries can be painful and disfiguring, and may require reconstructive surgery.

Ejection from the vehicle: In some cases, an unrestrained person may be partially or completely ejected from the vehicle during a crash. Ejection greatly increases the risk of severe injuries and fatalities, as the individual can strike the ground, other vehicles, or objects outside the car.

Wearing a seatbelt is the most effective way to reduce the risk of these severe injuries in the event of a car accident. Seatbelts help keep occupants properly positioned and restrained, minimizing the impact of sudden deceleration and preventing ejection from the vehicle.

Contact Allen & Allen to recover compensation for an accident where you did not wear a seat belt

An experienced personal injury attorney can help protect the rights of those injured due to another party’s negligence, regardless of whether the victim was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. People who have been injured in a car accident that was not their fault may still be entitled to compensation for their losses. Your lawyer will ensure you are fairly represented in a car accident claim.

At Allen & Allen, we are committed to more than simply providing you with legal representation. We will make your fight our fight. Our seasoned car accident attorneys will advocate on your behalf with insurance companies to make sure you receive fair treatment while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery.

The attorneys at Allen & Allen are here to use their knowledge of the law and experience to protect all who are injured due to the negligence of others. If you have been injured due to someone else’s recklessness, you may be entitled to compensation. We offer a free consultation to talk to you about your vehicle accident. Call us today to discuss your legal options at 866-772-1384 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.