Is my claim against the insurance company impacted if I was wearing a seatbelt in a car accident in Georgia? Will not wearing a seatbelt impact my claim? Will I lose my claim if I was not wearing a seatbelt in Georgia even if the other driver was at fault?
These are just some of the very common questions we get from persons injured in auto accidents.
Georgia Seatbelt Rules
First, let’s be clear: seatbelts save lives. They reduce the severity of the collision. Seatbelts are essential for the safety of drivers and passengers alike.
As a responsible citizen of Georgia, you should comply with all laws, including seatbelt rules. Georgia mandates the wearing of seatbelts for your safety.
Drivers and passengers on the front seats must wear seatbelts while traveling in a vehicle in Georgia. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia publishes the laws requiring seatbelt use. The attorneys at The Jewkes Firm, LLC highly recommend that you always wear a seatbelt and shoulder harness when operating a vehicle and that all passengers are appropriately restrained.
Children aged 6 to 17 years must wear seatbelts no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle. Hence, these children must wear seatbelts even if they are sitting at the back.
Children below six years of age must have a child restraint device or use a booster seat as appropriate for their age.
In 2016, the state included pick-up trucks in the list of vehicles where seatbelt rules apply.
If police officers determine you were without a seatbelt in violation of law, they will issue a ticket and you will have to pay a fine. Police officers are authorized to stop vehicles in Georgia if seatbelt rules are not being followed.
The importance of seatbelt rules cannot be overemphasized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that seatbelts are the single most important safety device for reducing traffic accident mortality and reducing the severity of injuries.
According to the same source, seatbelt use saved close to 13,000 lives in 2014.
Although adult passengers in the backseat of passenger vehicles are not required to buckle up in Georgia, you should resist the urge to go without seatbelts even if permitted. Safety is always the best course.
If you don’t buckle up, it could be your last ride.
Not Wearing a Seatbelt in Georgia – Will this Reduce the Amount of Your Personal Injury Claim?
In the context of personal injury claim, the short answer to whether the failure to buckle impacts your claim is: NO – your claim against the other driver’s insurance should not be affected if you failed to wear a seatbelt.
First, it is important to understand laws concerning the admissibility of whether the injured party was wearing a seatbelt in Georgia. In Georgia, whether the injured party is not wearing their seatbelt is inadmissible. This means the jury cannot hear testimony or view evidence that the injured party failed to be properly restrained. Therefore, failure to wear a seatbelt in Georgia should not reduce the liability of the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver cannot argue that the victim was not wearing a seatbelt. The defendant cannot argue for a dismissal or reduction in the settlement amount on grounds of the victim not wearing a seatbelt. (Practically speaking, insurance adjusters may still make this argument but it should have no affect on your claim given the clear law.)
The exact portion of the law, O.C.G.A. 40-8-76.1, subpart (D), is stated here:
(D) The failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seat safety belt in any seat of a motor vehicle which has a seat safety belt or belts shall not be considered evidence of negligence or causation, shall not otherwise be considered by the finder of fact on any question of liability of any person, corporation, or insurer, shall not be any basis for cancellation of coverage or increase in insurance rates, and shall not be evidence used to diminish any recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, occupancy, or operation of a motor vehicle.
The “seatbelt defense” might apply in some states but is not applicable in Georgia.
What is the “seatbelt defense”? The seatbelt defense is an argument that the crash victims share responsibility for losses, harm, and suffering, if they were not wearing a seatbelt. Defense attorneys use the seatbelt defense as grounds for reducing settlement amounts that the defendant or their insurance company must pay to the victims. This is allowed only in those states that permit the seatbelt defense. Georgia is not one of those states. See above at O.C.G.A. 40-8-76.1(D).
The seatbelt defense is based on the premise that not wearing a seatbelt is negligence by victims. The argument is that damages, harm and suffering are greater than what they would have been had the said victims used seatbelts.
However, in Georgia, not wearing a seatbelt does not constitute negligence by victims. It does not diminish the liability of the defendant. The reasoning behind Georgia’s position is to protect those individuals who were unable to wear a seatbelt for medical or other justifiable reasons or who temporarily released their seatbelt for a valid purpose immediately prior to the wreck. For example, a single mother with a crying child in the backseat is at a stop sign and momentarily releases her shoulder harness or lap belt to attend her child. If she is suddenly rear-ended by a drunk driver, the law does not encourage the drunk driver to escape liability simply because the single mother temporarily released her restraints.
This does not mean that drivers in Georgia can afford to become complacent and go without seatbelts thinking that the seatbelt defense is not applicable in the state.
Not wearing a seatbelt should not reduce your compensation in Georgia for harm and damage suffered due to a car crash.
After an accident, you should contact an accomplished personal injury attorney in Georgia as soon as possible. The attorney will evaluate the circumstances of the case and advise you on your next move.
The personal injury attorneys at The Jewkes Firm are your friends when it comes to fighting for your rights and maximizing your claim. They know and apply tactics that can help to obtain the settlement you so truly deserve.
Been in a car accident in Georgia?
Contact us today at (770) 771-5130 or send an email.