Can You File a Lawsuit if You Got Injured While Not Wearing a Seat Belt in Texas?
Injuries happen in all kinds of different car accidents. Whether you were going fast or slow – or whether you even pulled out of your parking space – can greatly affect your ability to sue and the ultimate issue of who is “at fault” in your case. One question of particular interest is whether you can sue if you weren’t wearing your seat belt.
Generally, car accident victims can sue even if they weren’t wearing their seat belts during the crash. While seat belts are required across Texas, there are many reasons why you might not have had a seat belt on and why the accident should still be primarily considered the other driver’s fault. However, you might lose some of the damages you were owed if you were not wearing a seat belt, or you could even have your case blocked.
For help with a car accident case, call The Queenan Law Firm. Our Arlington car accident lawyers represent victims in car crash cases and fight to get them compensation. For a free legal consultation, call us at (817) 476-1797.
Can You Sue for a Car Crash if You Weren’t Wearing a Seat Belt in Texas?
The Texas Transportation Code § 545.413 makes it a traffic offense to drive without a seat belt. Still, many car accidents involve people who weren’t wearing seat belts for one reason or another. In many cases, this does not mean that you lose out on your ability to sue, but it is possible that it could block your case or at least make you partially at fault or reduce your damages.
Reasons Car Crash Victims Might Not Wear a Seat Belt
In some vehicles, seat belts just aren’t there. School buses and public transit buses usually do not have seat belts for anyone but the driver. Taxi passengers (and many passengers in Ubers and Lyfts) also simply don’t wear seat belts. Typically, there is an exception to the seat belt law for bus passengers, but taxi, Uber, and Lyft passengers don’t have this same exception and should wear a seat belt. Regardless of whether these passengers were or were not wearing a seat belt, they could still be considered the “victim” of the accident, especially since they were not the ones driving when the crash happened.
Victims might also not be wearing a seat belt if they were in a parked car when they were hit. There may also be medical exceptions for why someone can’t wear a seat belt. Talk to a Dallas car accident lawyer about what exceptions apply to you.
Suing as a Victim Who Didn’t Wear Their Seat Belt
Damages and injuries in car crashes can be blamed on whichever driver or drivers are considered “negligent.” Negligence means breaking some traffic law or violating some driving standard in an unreasonable way that causes the crash to occur. For instance, a speeding driver could be held liable for a crash if their traffic violation – speeding – caused the crash.
Failing to wear a seat belt is indeed a traffic violation, but it can’t cause a car crash. However, it can make things worse for you if you are in a car crash, contributing to the injuries that result from the crash. If you were thrown into the dashboard or ejected from the car because you were not wearing a seat belt, you could be partly responsible for how bad those injuries are.
If there is a good reason you were not wearing a seat belt – such as a medical excuse or because you were stopped in a parking space – then the fact that you didn’t have a seat belt on should not be a contributing factor. In these cases, it would be perfectly reasonable not to wear a seat belt, so it cannot be considered “negligent.” Call a Fort Worth car accident lawyer for help with unique cases like this.
Limited and Denied Damages for Drivers Who Don’t Wear Seat Belts
Courts can assign partial blame to the driver and partial blame to the injured person who didn’t have a seat belt. This could mean putting more of the blame on the negligent driver if the injuries were not much worse without the seat belt, or it could mean putting more of the blame on the injury victim of the lack of a seat belt was a substantial factor in the injuries.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.001 blocks liability in cases where the victim is more than 50% at fault. This means that if the court finds that not wearing a seat belt makes you more than 50% at fault for your injuries, you cannot sue for damages. However, if the lack of a seat belt only contributed to 5% or 10% of your injuries, for example, it should not block you from holding the other diver at fault.
All in all, damages will be reduced by whatever percentage of fault you shared. That means that in an example where you were found 10% at fault because you did not have a seat belt on, then the court could reduce your damages by 10%.
Car Crash Cases Involving a Passenger with No Seat Belt
Drivers typically take their safety into their own hands if they do not wear a seat belt. That is why courts can hold them partially liable – or potentially block damages – if they try to sue for injuries after not wearing a seat belt. But what happens when passengers instead of drivers don’t wear seat belts?
Technically speaking, the law requires the passenger to wear a seat belt rather than requiring the driver to tell passengers to wear a seat belt. This means that not using a seat belt would be your own fault if you were injured as a passenger, not your driver’s fault. The exception is when children under 17 do not wear seat belts – that could potentially be considered the driver’s fault. Our Houston car accident lawyers can help you decide whom to sue.
Car Accident Lawyers for Injury Victims in Texas
For a free legal consultation on your car accident case, call The Queenan Law Firm at (817) 476-1797. Our Odessa, TX personal injury lawyers give free legal consultations.