Yes! If you were in a car accident and you weren’t wearing a seat belt, Georgia law still allows you to recover damages. This stands in stark relief to what you’ll often hear from those around you. The insurance company, the other driver, even friends and family might tell you that if you weren’t wearing a seat belt, the injuries were your own fault. But this isn’t always true, and legally, it doesn’t mean you can’t recover money.
Here are some quick facts you should know if you’re in this situation:
- Although seat belts are required by law for drivers and front-seat passengers, in Georgia, back-seat passengers are not legally required to wear a seat belt
- The penalty for breaking the seat belt law is a citation and fine—it does not necessarily prevent you from recovering damages
- Not wearing a seat belt does make your claim more complicated, and in some cases it means you will receive less money, but you do still have a right to a recovery
Why can you still recover damages if you weren’t wearing a seat belt?
Victims can still recover money because, in Georgia, car accident claims are not based on whether the victim broke the law. They are based on whether someone’s negligence caused the injury.
Basically, what you have to prove is this:
- The other driver did something illegal and/or careless (“negligent”), and
- That negligent act is what caused the accident, and your injuries.
If those two things are true, then you have a right to recover damages in most cases.
How much money can I recover in damages if I wasn’t wearing a seat belt?
It is true that, it many cases, not wearing a seat belt means you will receive less money. This works differently depending on whether your car accident lawyer negotiates a settlement directly with the insurer, or if you go through the courts to get a ruling on your case.
- With insurance companies: Insurers will often claim that your injuries would have been less severe if you had worn a seat belt. In many cases this is true. For example, if you were thrown out of the vehicle, that is almost definitely because you weren’t buckled up. If you had worn your seat belt, you still would have been injured, but the injuries would not have been as severe. In cases like this, insurers may offer to pay only a portion of your medical costs. They may try to limit how much you can propose in a settlement, or attempt to deny a settlement entirely. These are tactics—just because they are demanding this does not mean it’s the best you can get.
In the courts: Georgia law has what’s called comparative negligence. This means that both parties can be partly negligent in a case. Maybe the other driver is mostly at fault, but your own negligence made your injuries worse. As long as the other driver is more than 50% at fault, you can still recover money. The amount you can recover will just be reduced by the amount you are found to be negligent.
As an example, let’s say the courts find you are 25% at fault because you didn’t wear a seat belt. That means you can still recover money, but it will be reduced by 25%. You can recover 75% as much money in damages as if you were wearing a seat belt.
The courts always provide a recourse if the insurer is refusing to offer you money.
Do Not Let Yourself Be Deprived of Your Settlement
Never give up on your claim just because you weren’t wearing a seat belt. Drivers and passengers recover damages all the time even if they weren’t belted in.
We can help you get the money you deserve. We will connect you with a top Georgia car accident lawyer and get you a FREE consultation—and our legal team never charges a penny unless we win you money. Call us at (404) 341-6555 or fill out the form to the right to get your free consultation today.