Car Accident Lawyer, Phoenix, AZ
Can I Still File a Lawsuit if I Wasn’t Wearing My Seat Belt?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, seek out a car accident lawyer in Phoenix, AZ for legal intervention right away. You probably have an abundance of questions only an experienced lawyer can help you answer. For example, you might be wondering, “Can I still file a lawsuit if I wasn’t wearing my seat belt?” Well, the short answer is yes. Read on to learn how you can file a personal injury lawsuit with help from a lawyer at Kamper Estrada LLP, even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt (and how that might affect your chances at compensation!).
Accidents are often the result of one driver’s negligence, such as the case of drunk driving. In other accidents, both drivers share fault. Maybe one driver ran a stoplight, while the other driver was distracted. The insurance company may determine that the driver who wasn’t paying enough attention to the road holds some responsibility for the accident. If you were the distracted driver and injured in the accident, you may wonder how that may impact getting compensation for your medical bills.
The legal practice of personal injury cases often falls under the tort law area of negligence. In Phoenix, AZ a car accident lawyer should be well versed in the area of negligence. Negligence is the failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.
For example, Car A runs a red light and hits Car B. As a result, Car B is totaled, and the driver suffers broken arm among other injuries. To recover for damages, Car B will need to show that Car A was negligent. Negligence has four elements that must be met for it to be an effective legal strategy:
- Duty: The driver of Car A owed Car B a duty to drive responsibly.
- Breach of Duty: The driver of Car A breached duty by running the red light.
- Causation: Car A’s breach of duty caused the auto accident.
- Damages: driver of Car B suffered property damage and injury as a result.
But, what if the driver of Car B wasn’t wearing a seat belt? Did they somehow contribute to their injuries?
Fault and No-Fault Accidents
In personal injury cases, fault is a complex legal term that determines who is liable for the injuries. Generally, the at-fault driver will have the responsibility to pay for the damages after an accident. However, fault is not always clear. Some states have rules that outline how fault works after an accident. If you are concerned about how fault will be decided, a car accident lawyer from Phoenix, AZ can offer strategy.
In four states and Washington D.C., a driver can only receive compensation if they were 0% responsible for the accident. It’s called “pure contributory negligence.” If the insurance company determines that your actions were even 10% responsible for the accident, you won’t see any money for your damages or injuries.
Twelve states have a type of negligence called “pure comparative negligence.” If you were driving in one of these states and got into a collision, fault would be determined. If you were 75% responsible for the accident, you could still file a claim with the other driver’s insurance for 25% of the damages and costs.
“Modified pure comparative negligence” is a middle ground between the two. In this type of negligence, you could only recoup from the other driver if your fault is less than 50% or 51%, depending on where the accident occurred. If you were more than 50% responsible, you cannot collect from the other driver.
How It Affects A Lawsuit
Car B can still file a negligence lawsuit against Car A, though Car A’s attorneys may argue that the Car B was “Contributorily” or “Comparatively” Negligent. Ultimately, how much you’ll be able to recover will depend on the negligence laws in your state. A Phoenix, AZ car accident lawyer may recommend using certain types of defenses based on the circumstances of the collision. Many states allow for contributory and comparative negligence defenses.
Contributory Negligence Defense : This defense allows for a plaintiff to be barred from recovery if the plaintiff is found to have at all acted negligently and contributed to the accident or their own injuries, even if they are just 1% at fault.
Comparative Negligence Defense: This defense allows a plaintiff to recover their damages but reduces them by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. There are three types of comparative negligence:
- Pure Comparative: The plaintiff will receive their total damages, minus their percentage of fault. For example, if Car B is found to be 25% at fault and the damages total $100,000, Car B will only receive $75,000.
- 50% Modified Comparative: The plaintiff will not recover if they are found to be as equally responsible for the accident as the defendant.
- 51% Modified Comparative: The plaintiff will not recover if they are found to be 51% or more responsible for the accident.
Fault Laws Can Be Complicated
Comparative fault laws favor the defense. The other driver’s insurance company will want to convince the court that you were partially at fault for the accident. You should consider talking to car accident lawyer based in Phoenix, AZ to help you show that the accident wasn’t your fault or at least lower the percentage of your fault.
If you are determined to be at fault, even partially, what you recover will depend on where the accident occurred and the insurance policy of the other driver and possibly even your own insurance policy. In many places, you can still receive partial compensation for your medical bills.
Follow the State Law
An experienced lawyer at Kamper Estrada, LLC can help you present your case and show evidence that will make your claim more successful. Every state has its own definition of fault. The law is complex. Don’t make assumptions about your case without talking to an experienced legal advocate.
As a car accident lawyer in Phoenix, AZ is likely to suggest just wearing your seat belt whenever you get behind the wheel. Every state has different laws regarding seat belt use. You, whether as a driver or as a passenger in someone else’s car, have a responsibility to follow a state’s seat belt laws.
Arizona law states that all front seat passengers must wear a seat belt, and any passenger 16 years old or younger must wear a seat belt, regardless of where they are sitting. By omission, it appears that adults in the backseat aren’t legally obligated to wear a seat belt, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
Also, it’s your life! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes”. So, why not buckle up? It can only help.
What to Do Next
If you’ve were injured in an auto accident, regardless of whether you were wearing your seat belt, contact the law offices of Kamper Estrada, LLP for a free initial consultation in Phoenix, AZ from a car accident lawyer. Our personal injury attorneys have over 40 years of experience in helping eligible plaintiff’s receive compensation.
Our knowledgeable staff can help guide you every step of the way. If you’re in need of legal assistance, contact Kamper Estrada, LLP today for a free initial consultation with a car accident lawyer in Phoenix, AZ.