Can I File a Claim for Car Accident Injuries if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt?

Drivers and most passengers in the DMV are required to wear seatbelts. Police can hand out tickets when they stop vehicles that are operating in violation of the seatbelt laws.

So does this mean that people injured in car accidents in the DMV can’t file a claim for damages if they weren’t wearing a seatbelt? After all, failure to wear a seatbelt often increases the severity of an accident victim’s injuries. Let’s see what the laws of the DMV have to say.

Contributory Negligence

In Maryland, Virginia, and most situations in DC, when someone is injured in an accident, they cannot recover damages for their injuries if their actions are partially to blame for their injuries. Their actions are considered contributory negligence because they contributed to the cause of their harm. 

Under the contributory negligence rule, any fault on the part of the victim prevents them from obtaining damages from others responsible for causing the accident and resulting injuries. Just looking at this rule on its own, it might seem that failure to wear a seatbelt could be seen as contributory negligence that would prevent an accident victim from recovering.

But that’s not actually the case.

Statutes in DC, Maryland, and Virginia All Address the Issue of Seatbelts

Perhaps surprisingly, the laws of DC, Maryland, and Virginia all specify that violation of the seatbelt requirements cannot be used as evidence of contributory negligence. So even if you might not have been injured if you had worn a seatbelt, that fact cannot be raised in court.

In Maryland, for instance, Section 22-412.3(h) of the Transportation Code specifies that “Failure of an individual to use a seat belt in violation of this section may not:

         (i) Be considered evidence of negligence;

         (ii) Be considered evidence of contributory negligence;

         (iii) Limit liability of a party or an insurer; or

         (iv) Diminish recovery for damages

Section 50-1807 of the DC Code and Section 46.2-1094 of the Virginia Code say much the same thing. Generally, seatbelt usage cannot even be discussed in a civil case unless the case hinges on a defect in the seatbelt itself.

Seatbelt Usage Does not Affect the Ability to File a Claim of Amount of Damages

To summarize, under the statutes in the DMV, if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident, you are still allowed to file a claim for damages, even if the law required you to wear a seatbelt at the time.

In addition, the insurance company or other drivers involved are not allowed to argue that your injuries would have been less severe if you’d been wearing a seatbelt or that you should recover less in compensation because you violated the law by failing to wear a seatbelt. These laws work in favor of accident victims.

Get Help with Your Car Accident Claim

At Johnnie Bond Law, our team is dedicated to helping victims of car accidents and other harmful events recover their physical health and regain control over their lives. We stand up to insurance companies and others who try to bully you into accepting less than you deserve. Our dedication and experience allow us to protect our clients and gain the compensation they need to keep moving forward.

To talk to us about how we could assist in your case, just give us a call.