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Driving Without a Seat Belt: Can I be Compensated?

Texas law requires drivers and passengers to wear seat belts, but not everyone follows the law. Data from the Texas Department of Transportation show that 924 people who were not wearing seat belts died in car accidents in 2019. Not wearing a seat belt often results in more severe injuries or fatal injuries in an accident.

You should obey the law and wear a seat belt when riding in a motor vehicle. But if you were injured in a crash while not wearing a seat belt, you may still be eligible for claim compensation for your injuries if the accident was caused by another driver. The McAllen, TX car accident lawyers at Herrman & Herrman can review the details of your accident and help you pursue compensation from the at-fault motorist accountable.

Our personal injury attorneys have more than 100 years of combined legal experience, and we’ve helped our clients recover millions of dollars. Get a free consultation today by filling out our contact form or calling our office in McAllen to speak with a member of our team.

Receiving Compensation After a Car Crash Without a Seat Belt in McAllen

Personal injury claims are based on the legal theory of negligence. The at-fault driver is financially liable because he or she acted carelessly or negligently and caused the crash. Your decision not to wear a seat belt most likely did not contribute to causing the crash.

For example, suppose that you’re hit by a drunk driver who ran a red light while you were crossing legally through the intersection. You were following all the rules of the road except for wearing your seat belt. The impaired driver caused your injuries by driving while impaired and failing to obey a stop light. You would not have suffered injuries except for the drunk driver’s negligent actions. Therefore, you should be allowed to seek compensation from the drunk driver, even though you were not wearing your seatbelt.

In cases where someone is injured in a car accident while not wearing a seatbelt, the lawyers for the insurance company will often try to justify the insurer’s denial of the injury claim by citing the so-called “seat belt defense.”

This argument implies that you were injured because you weren’t wearing your seatbelt or that your injuries were more severe because you weren’t properly restrained. This underscores the importance of having an experienced McAllen personal injury attorney advocating for your interests after a crash caused by another motorist.

With the help of an experienced car accident lawyer, you may seek compensation even if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Your attorney will work to build a strong case on your behalf. Our attorneys at Herrman & Herrman will work to demonstrate how the other party’s negligence caused the collision and that your injuries resulted from the negligent driver’s actions. While the fact that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt could reduce your final award depending on what percentage of fault is assigned to you, you may still be entitled to significant compensation to help rebuild your life.

Texas Seat Belt Laws

Texas law requires all drivers and passengers to use a seat belt or other restraining device whenever they’re seated in a vehicle. For adult drivers, the belt’s shoulder strap should go over the shoulder and across the center of the chest. The lap portion of the belt should fit snugly across the hips, not rest over the stomach. Failing to wear a seat belt when required to do so is a misdemeanor offense.

Texas’ seat belt laws include specific provisions for younger passengers. If a young child cannot use a standard seat belt, the child must ride in an appropriate booster seat or another restraint. The rules for younger passengers are:

  • Birth to age 2: Infants and toddlers must use a rear-facing child seat until they are two years old or reach the highest height or weight allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Age 2 to 4: Children from age 2 to 4, or those who have outgrown a rear-facing seat, should use a forward-facing safety seat with a harness. They should continue to use the seat with a harness until they reach the weight or height limit set by the safety seat manufacturer.
  • Age 4 to 8: Any children ages 4 to 8 who have reached the weight or height limit for a forward-facing car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat to keep safe while in a vehicle. They should use a belt-positioning system until they can comfortably use a standard vehicle safety belt. This typically occurs when a child reaches 4 feet, 9 inches in height, and is between 8 to 12 years old.

Texas Comparative Negligence

The most significant way that not wearing a seat belt can affect your personal injury claim has to do with Texas’ comparative negligence laws. The laws are used to help determine what compensation someone receives in a personal injury claim if there are potentially multiple liable parties.

Under the comparative negligence system used in Texas, compensation in a personal injury claim is awarded based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party involved in the claim. In Texas, plaintiffs in personal injury cases are not entitled to compensation if they are found to be more than 50 percent responsible for their injuries.

By citing the seat belt defense, an insurance company may try to avoid financial liability by arguing that you were partially or fully responsible for your own injuries. That’s why it is crucial to hire an experienced injury lawyer to push back against insurance company tactics and build a strong case on your behalf for full compensation.

Contact a McAllen, TX Car Accident Lawyer

If you were injured in an accident but weren’t wearing your seatbelt at the time of the crash, don’t despair. Contact the McAllen, TX car accident lawyers at Herrman & Herrman to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable member of our legal team. We’ll provide a 100% free consultation to evaluate your case and determine the best course of action. Contact us today by calling our office or visiting our contact page.