Can I file a lawsuit if I wasn’t wearing my seat belt in a crash?

October 16, 2018 in Uncategorized | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

Car Accident Lawyer

You can still file suit against the other driver in a crash that left you injured, even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt. However, your defense will be impacted by your choice, and it may even dictate the judge’s ruling depending on state laws.

Consult an experienced team of attorneys before you move forward with your case.

Will not wearing a seat belt have a negative impact on my case?

It could. Insurance companies will try to argue that it is negligent, but Virginia law says otherwise.  According to Va. Code sec. 46.2-1094, evidence that you were not wearing a seat belt will not be admissible in a personal injury claim that you bring: 

“A violation of this section shall not constitute negligence, be considered in mitigation of damages of whatever nature, be admissible in evidence or be the subject of comment by counsel in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a motor vehicle, nor shall anything in this section change any existing law, rule, or procedure pertaining to any such civil action.”

Insurance adjusters may argue that your injuries may not have been as bad, had you been wearing your seat belt. If you want to make a claim on the at-fault driver’s insurance, they will investigate to see if your injuries warrant a payout, and if so, how much you deserve.  But again, don’t fall for that, as that argument doesn’t work under Virginia law.

The goal of insurance companies is to pay as little as possible on claims. That’s why auto accident victims come to the offices of a lawyer. We can navigate an insurance claim for you. We can also represent you in a personal injury lawsuit.

A law firm has experience representing other auto accident victims and we have still secured them a settlement they deserve even if they weren’t wearing a seat belt. A law firm will assess your case and determine which path forward will get you the most.

So yes, not wearing a seat belt could have a negative impact on your case if you don’t know your rights, but it doesn’t have to. Call an attorney today to talk through your options.

What is the seat belt defense?

If filing a lawsuit is best for your case, you may encounter the insurance company and the other driver using the so-called ‘seat belt defense’. It’s accepted in only certain states, but not Virginia. The seat belt defense reduces liability of the at-fault driver, placing partial blame on the victim as being negligent for buckling up. Even though you may not have caused the accident, you are perceived as negligent by having made your injuries worse without a seat belt.

The states that allow the seat belt defense are:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

A short list of states don’t have a clear adoption or rejection for the seat belt defense: Hawaii, North Dakota, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Virginia. All other states do not allow the seat belt defense.

If you’re up against the seat belt defense in your case, don’t go it alone. These cases are complex and require assistance from a personal injury attorney.

Do I need an attorney?

An car accident lawyer Memphis, Tennessee has been through this before and knows how to take on the insurance companies. They know how to go head-to-head with the other driver’s attorney so that you can focus on your recovery.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Patterson Bray, for their insight into car accidents and seat belts.

Contact Our Virginia Lawyers

We serve clients throughout Virginia — from Charlottesville and Central Virginia to metropolitan Richmond; Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley to Roanoke; and the cities of Hampton Roads to the Northern Virginia cities of  Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington.

To speak with one of our attorneys, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at MartinWren, P.C. have a statewide practice and offer free consultations at a time and location that is convenient for you.  We will gladly meet with you at your home or at the hospital, even on nights and weekends.


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