Statistics show that seat belts do a great job at reducing your injury extent or likelihood in the event of a car crash. But because seat belts have been proven to help keep you safe, could your decision to not wear one factor into your injury award in the event of an accident? It should come as no surprise that the insurance company will do everything in their power to reduce their liability, so this is certainly one card they’ll play if you weren’t wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. But just how successful is this move?
When it comes to collecting compensation for car accident injuries, Minnesota uses a modified version of the standard comparative fault system. Without getting too technical, it’s important to understand that your payment award is based on how the courts determine fault is assigned in the accident. If you were stopped at a red light and you were rear ended by someone else, it may seem like they are completely at fault, but that could change if you weren’t wearing your seat belt.
Seat Belt and Comparative Fault
If the insurance company is going to claim that you are partially at fault for your injuries because you neglected to wear a seat belt, they need to prove that you decision contributed to an increase in injury severity. In other words, they can’t just argue that you weren’t wearing a seat belt and therefore your injuries are partially your fault, they need to prove that the decision to not wear a seat belt caused injuries beyond what would have happened if you were wearing a seat belt.
So how will they do this, and how can you strengthen your own argument? Both sides will use the following to make their case:
- Medical reports
- Testimony from accident reconstruction experts
- Testimony from medical experts
- Witness statements
- Video or dash cam recordings
- Photographs from the scene
The good news is that the onus to prove that the injuries were enhanced due to your decision not to wear a seat belt falls on the insurance company. However, you still need to make a strong case, because even if the court rules that you were 5 or 10 percent at fault for the extent of your injuries, that can result in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars, so you’ll want to hire an attorney to prove that your fault rating was zero.
So even if it seems clear in your mind that someone else was fully at fault for the extent of your injuries, never assume it’s going to be an open and shut case. The insurance company will look for every possible way to limit their liability, and oftentimes they prey on an accident victims inexperience or desire to put the crash behind them. Don’t get taken advantage of by the insurance company. For more information or for help proving your fault rating following a car accident, reach out to the experienced legal team at Hey Workers.