Do I Have a Claim if I Was Not Wearing a Seatbelt in a Crash?
Wisconsin requires all drivers and passengers over the age of four to buckle up. Children under four must also be in a child safety seat and properly restrained. Unfortunately, many people ignore this law even though not wearing a seatbelt makes them more likely to suffer serious harm in a crash.
Below, PKSD explains more about Wisconsin’s seatbelt law, including how not being buckled up could hurt a car crash claim.
Wearing your seatbelt will not bar you from seeking compensation if you get injured. However, it could complicate your claim, so it is important to discuss your situation with a qualified and experienced attorney.
FREE Case Review. Call 877-877-2228
What is the Seatbelt Law in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, the seatbelt law is a primary enforcement law. This means you can be stopped by police for not being buckled up, even if you were not speeding or breaking other traffic laws. Those who get caught not wearing their seatbelt can expect fines and may also face other consequences. For instance, not being buckled up during a crash could be used against you to try to devalue your injury claim.
Police who stop you for not wearing your seatbelt could fine you $10 for yourself and for each unbuckled passenger. Drivers with unrestrained children under the age of four can expect to receive fines from $35 to $75.
What is the Seatbelt Defense and is it Valid in Wisconsin?
Some states allow the at-fault party in an injury claim to use something called the seatbelt defense. When valid, the liable party may use a victim’s failure to buckle up as a means to devalue or deny an injury claim.
The way this works is that the liable party can argue your injuries would not have happened or would have been less severe if you were wearing your seatbelt. If this defense is successful, then a jury can decide to deny or devalue the injured party’s claim.
Is the Seatbelt Defense Valid in Wisconsin?
Under Wisconsin statute, not wearing a seatbelt is negligence, and the seatbelt defense is permitted. However, a jury may not deny your claim, and they may only devalue it by up to 15 percent of your awarded damages. Additionally, the at-fault party must provide evidence your injuries were worsened by not wearing a seatbelt or that you would have been unharmed with a seatbelt on. In other words, he or she must link your injuries to your failure to wear a seat belt.
If you sustained a concussion because your head slammed into the steering wheel, using a seatbelt might have prevented you from hitting your head. In this scenario, use of the seatbelt defense could be successful.
If you hurt your leg, however, wearing a seatbelt would probably not have helped. In this scenario, the seatbelt defense is less likely to succeed.
In short, while not wearing a seatbelt is negligent on your part, the other side cannot automatically argue that this negligence caused your injuries. Injured victims should be mindful not to allow the insurance company to convince you otherwise.
We strongly recommend seeking legal help from a licensed Milwaukee-based car crash lawyer before speaking with your insurer.
How Not Wearing a Seatbelt Increases Your Risk for a Serious Injury
The data on buckling up is clear: wearing a seatbelt can dramatically reduce the risk of serious injuries in a crash. Collisions cause unbuckled drivers and passengers to get tossed about or ejected from the vehicle. A seatbelt helps prevent you from hitting objects in your car, crashing into the windshield or being ejected from the vehicle.
In 2017 alone, seatbelts saved nearly 15,000 lives, according to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2020, 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants died in crashes. Of that number, 51 percent of them were not wearing their seatbelts. Buckling up in the front seat can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and the risk of critical injury by 50 percent.
What Should You Do After a Crash in Which You Were Not Wearing a Seatbelt?
It is important to limit what you say about a crash, especially when speaking with the insurance company or at-fault party. In this situation, you may greatly benefit from seeking legal help before speaking with the insurance company. The insurance company will still find out you were not wearing a seatbelt. However, if you hire an attorney, your conversations with him or her about your case are confidential. Your attorney will also know the best strategy for dealing with the fact you were not wearing your seatbelt.
Give Us a Call To Discuss Filing a Claim
The attorneys at PKSD are ready to help you seek maximum compensation for damages caused by a car crash. If our firm represents you, there are no upfront costs to get started and also no fees while we work on your case.
Our firm has secured compensation for many injured victims throughout the state and beyond. We are prepared to fully manage your claim, freeing you to focus on continuing your medical treatment.
Call our trusted law firm for help today. 877-877-2228.