Wearing a seatbelt is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself inside of a vehicle. It significantly decreases your chances of being severely or fatally injured in a car accident, but there are still many people who prefer not to wear a seatbelt as a rider or driver. If you choose not to wear a seatbelt and you’re injured in an accident, what does that mean? Have you given up your right to compensation?
Learn more about Virginia seatbelt law and how your choices may affect your ability to receive compensation. To discuss your crash in greater detail, call Olmstead & Olmstead at 703-361-1555.
The Importance of Wearing a Seatbelt
Before going any further, let’s touch on the importance of wearing a seatbelt. In the event that you are reading this just to know what would happen if you were in a crash, please consider wearing a seatbelt while in a vehicle. While there are situations where seatbelt use is not recommended, those situations are few and far between.
The NHTSA reports that nearly half of the people who died in a fatal car crash in 2017 were not wearing a seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt could have saved thousands of additional lives. Those in the front seat of the car can cut their risk of death in an accident by 45% simply by wearing a seatbelt. They may be annoying or unwieldy, but the benefits far outweigh the downsides.
Seatbelt Laws in Virginia and the Role of Contributory Negligence
As a Virginia resident, it’s important to know your rights and obligations under the law. Per Virginia law, everyone underneath the age of 18 must be safely restrained in a seatbelt or child safety seat—no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle. On top of that, anyone riding in the front seat of a vehicle must be wearing a seatbelt. If you are driving a vehicle and someone is not wearing a seatbelt when they are legally required to do so, you can get ticketed.
Contributory negligence is an important concept to understand when it comes to car accidents. Virginia is one of just four states that follows a pure contributory negligence rule. If you have any fault in a crash, you are barred from receiving compensation in a lawsuit. This is in stark contrast to comparative negligence, a rule utilized in most states.
Under comparative negligence rules, a victim either cannot receive compensation if they are more than 50% at fault or their compensation is decreased proportionate to the amount of fault they have for the crash.
What Happens If You Were Not Wearing a Seatbelt
People often look at Virginia’s contributory negligence rule and assume that it means that they cannot receive compensation after a car accident. After all, you can’t sue for compensation if you share any blame—and not wearing a seatbelt can definitely contribute to the severity of an accident.
However, Virginia law addresses this specific situation. Under the law of the Commonwealth, a violation of the seatbelt law cannot be used by the defendant as a sign of negligence on the part of the plaintiff. This violation also cannot serve as a reason to decrease the victim’s compensation. Even if the victim was not wearing a seatbelt, they are not responsible for the initial cause of the accident.
What to Do After Your Car Accident
After an accident, you can expect the other party’s insurance company to start looking at your accident from every angle. They want to find a way to prove your liability so they can deny you compensation. To protect yourself, you need to hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They can start building your case and fight for the compensation you are owed.
Explore Your Options with Olmstead & Olmstead
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, this is the time to contact an attorney to guide you through the personal injury claim process. At Olmstead & Olmstead, we believe in helping victims fight for the full and fair compensation they are owed. Schedule a time to talk now by calling us at 703-361-1555 or reaching out to us online