The seatbelt is one of the most critical pieces of safety gear when it comes to driving. Seatbelts saved close to 15,000 lives in 2017, and more than 2,500 lives could have been saved if they had buckled up. That is why most states, including Missouri, have seatbelt laws in place to promote safety. If you fail to wear a seatbelt and get into an accident, not only does it increase the chance of a severe injury, but it can also impact the amount of compensation you recover.
If you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident, you will automatically hold at least part of the blame for your injuries. It may not completely bar you from recovering compensation, but an insurance company will argue that it increases your percentage of fault. Missouri operates under a “pure comparative negligence” system, which means you can be 99% responsible for an accident and still receive compensation. However, your percentage of liability will be deducted from your award. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 but an insurance company determines you are 30% at fault for your injury for failing to brake in time and not wearing a seatbelt, you will only recover 70% or $70,000.
Fortunately, an insurance company’s ability to use the seatbelt defense as a means to lower your compensation is limited in Missouri. By law, insurers can only attribute one percent of fault to failure to wear a seatbelt.
The police officer who responds to the scene will likely be able to tell whether you were wearing a seatbelt and will note it in their accident report. In addition, they will speak with drivers and passengers from every vehicle involved and any witnesses. Your injuries may also provide evidence that you did not have a seat belt on, and if necessary, the other party may use traffic light cameras or dashboard cameras as proof.
By law, all drivers and passengers in Missouri must wear a seatbelt at all times while a vehicle is being operated. When a passenger is under the age of 16, the driver is responsible for ensuring they have a seatbelt on. Failing to properly use a seat belt can lead to a fine and court costs.
Navigating a car accident claim on your own can be challenging, especially if the insurance company is fighting to reduce your compensation because you were not wearing a seatbelt. An attorney will make sure that you are not taken advantage of and that your compensation is reduced by one percent at the most. There are also legal strategies and evidence they may be able to collect that defeats their arguments as to why your claim should be reduced or denied.