Yes. In this article, we will discuss how it can impact your case if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident and how a Denver car accident lawyer can help you.
You’ve sustained injuries in a car accident, and you weren’t wearing a seatbelt; you’re probably wondering if you are still able to seek compensation for your injuries. The reason doesn’t matter – whether you were taking a short trip down the road or you simply forgot to wear it. Put simply, the answer is usually yes; it does matter if you are wearing a seatbelt.
But how much you can seek in damage compensation will depend on the unique circumstances of the accident. In many cases, not wearing a seatbelt can reduce the final compensation amount you are eligible to receive, but it doesn’t automatically disqualify you from filing a claim. Without a seatbelt, you probably sustained some serious injuries in the crash, and medical bills are not cheap, so you’ll need help paying for those expenses.
Colorado’s Seatbelt Laws
Colorado’s seatbelt laws are outlined by the Colorado General Assembly and explicitly require every driver and front-seat passenger to wear a seatbelt. This includes any “autocycle” that has a safety belt system in place. As long as one is operating a motor vehicle in the state of Colorado on a street or highway, it’s legally required for them to wear a seatbelt.
So what happens if you weren’t wearing one during an accident that was another driver’s fault? Well, this could impact your personal injury claim by “mitigating damages.” In other words, your failure to wear a seatbelt will compromise the damage compensation you can seek. When it comes time to file a personal injury claim, this will be a critical detail that the defense looks into. And whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt will be clear based on the nature and degree of your injuries.
Colorado is one of two states that permit the defense to introduce failure to wear a seatbelt as evidence of the plaintiff’s non-compliance. In layman’s terms, it gives the other party evidence that you were “non-compliant” with the law and supports their defense argument. As a result, you cannot recover non-economic damages if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt in Colorado.
However, the defense will need to provide evidence that you were not wearing a seatbelt, and you will also have the opportunity to refute their allegation or show that not wearing a seatbelt didn’t contribute to causing your injuries.
How Do Colorado’s Seatbelt Laws Affect Me?
To reiterate what we explained above from a legal framework, if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt during the crash, you still have the right to seek compensation. However, the type of damages you can seek will be limited to economic damages without the opportunity to recover non-economic damages. Economic damages you can still seek include:
- Medical costs
- Lost income due to your car accident injuries
- Property damage
You cannot recover any damages related to pain and suffering (e.g., emotional trauma, mental anguish, depression, PTSD, etc). Wearing a seatbelt is important because it can prevent life-threatening injuries or even death. So, when you fail to wear one, your odds of sustaining fatal injuries are higher, especially in a high-speed crash. You’re also breaking the law if you are driving or sitting in the front and not wearing a seatbelt.
But the reality is that many drivers don’t wear a seatbelt while they drive. Some drivers never wear it. If you or your family member was in an accident caused by another driver and got injured while not wearing a seatbelt, the best move to make is to hire a Denver personal injury lawyer. They can see to it that you still get the compensation that you are eligible for without settling for less than you deserve. While it’s irresponsible not to wear a seatbelt, it doesn’t justify another driver’s negligence or recklessness that causes your injuries, and you still have a right to get some compensation.
“Negligence per Se” When the Injured Party Was Not Wearing A Seatbelt
Another detail to remember is that while the defense can bring up your failure to wear a seatbelt as evidence of non-compliance, they cannot use it as evidence to support contributory or comparative negligence. This means that while they can use it to strengthen their case and maybe avoid paying for your pain and suffering damages, they can’t use it as evidence to hold you partially at fault for your injuries. The bottom line is that the defense can’t use it against you because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt.
What if the Defense Uses the “Seat Belt Defense” to Reduce My Claim Value?
The defendant or at-fault party holds the burden of proof, as it’s their job to provide evidence that your failure to wear a seatbelt was directly connected to the severity of your injuries and suffering.
The Colorado Supreme Court made a ruling after the case Anderson vs. Watson (No. 96sc505) was appealed but ultimately upheld in favor of the trial court’s ruling. In the case Anderson vs. Watson (No. 96sc505), the jury ruled that the defense could eliminate or mitigate pain and suffering damages if the injured party didn’t wear a seatbelt and consequently suffered more due to their actions.
The idea is that had the injured person worn a seatbelt, they could have prevented the severity of injuries and the degree of pain and suffering, and therefore, they should not be allowed to collect damages for pain and suffering.
The defense only needs to provide sufficient evidence that the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt. For the seat belt defense to become permissible evidence in court (as evidence to support the defense), they don’t need to show any connection or relationship between the seat belt non-use and the plaintiff’s injuries.
Lawyers Who Can Help You Go Up Against the Seat Belt Defense
Our team of Denver personal injury lawyers has handled dozens of cases where people were injured while not wearing a seatbelt. And guess what? We’ve won those clients generous payouts that cover all of their injuries and damages.
What a lawyer can do for you is exhibit that you would have suffered the same injuries even if you were wearing a seatbelt. So, your use or non-use of the seat belt becomes irrelevant, and you still suffer damages and losses as a result of the negligent or reckless driver.
In less common instances, we can argue that you didn’t have a properly functioning seatbelt to use. If you truly did not have a seat belt for some reason, we’ll make sure we get your story straight to build a strong case in your favor. For instance, let’s say you had a broken seat belt and were en route to get it fixed when the other driver T-boned you.
Contact a Denver Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a family member was injured in a car accident and not wearing a seatbelt, don’t throw the towel in right away. A lot of people assume they have no legal recourse since they weren’t wearing a seatbelt, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ll fight back on any defense they try to use to get you the compensation you deserve.
Our strengths lie in finding hard-hitting evidence and treating each client with custom-tailored attention to curating a winning strategy for your unique case. Even if the defense uses the seatbelt argument to pay you less, we’ll still get you the most money possible for all of your economic damages. If you want to get the maximum amount possible, call our attorneys now.