Seat belts are designed with your safety in mind, and in Michigan, it is a stoppable offense if you are not wearing one. Wearing a seat belt is a primary law, but if you were not wearing one at the time of an accident, this offense might not be your only concern. Insurance adjusters will look for any reason to fault you, and not wearing a seat belt may be just what they need. While this does not mean the insurance company will disregard your claim altogether, it might, however, lead to reduced compensation. Contact Matz Injury Law to see how we can help you.
Not wearing a seat belt increases your chances of sustaining an injury during a car accident. For those that survive such motor vehicle crashes, the suffering of accident injuries can be long-term and even permanent. Here are the most common injuries in an auto accident without a seat belt.
Common facial injuries in a car accident often include a broken bone (nose, jaw, cheekbone), injury to the eye, lacerations, and soft tissue damage. Burns can also result.
Impact experienced in an auto accident, such as hitting the steering wheel, can lead to mild or severe dental injuries, including chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth. Other injuries you may experience are tooth displacement due to luxation (tearing or stretching of the tissues and ligaments that secure the tooth in place) or avulsion (tooth is knocked out of its socket).
Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, range in severity and may include a concussion, contusion, diffuse axonal (structures of the brain tear away during a sudden head rotation), penetration, coup-contrecoup (injuries to both sides of the brain), or another acquired brain injury not directly related to traumatic force.
The body has over 200 bones, and all are susceptible to breakage during a car accident. The most common injuries, however, include those to the spinal vertebrae, pelvis, clavicle, sternum, ribs, upper leg (femur), and lower leg (fibula).
There are significant consequences for not wearing a seat belt. For one, you are more likely to suffer serious injuries in an accident. Although airbags may deploy, they are not enough to adequately protect you. It is the combination of the two, the seat belt and airbag, that garners the highest amount of safety and protection when involved in an accident.
Secondly, by failing to wear a safety belt, the occupant of a vehicle may be tossed around inside the car’s interior compartment or ejected entirely from the vehicle, which often results in a fatal injury. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2020 alone, 23,824 fatalities occurred, and 51% of those were of vehicle occupants wearing no seatbelt.
In addition, not wearing a seat belt by motorists is considered a misdemeanor in Michigan. Drivers and a front seat passenger must comply, while those in a rear seat can choose. All passengers between 8 and 15 years of age must wear one regardless of where they are sitting, and those younger will need to be in a car seat. Michigan’s seat belt law is specifically a primary law, which means law enforcement may stop and ticket any motorist solely for not wearing their seat belt.
Seat belts are extremely effective and reduce the risk of death for drivers or passengers (in both the front seat and back seat) in motor vehicles when involved in a crash. In 2021, the NHTSA reported that the seat belt use rate was 90.4%, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Also weighing in on this matter is the Centers for Disease Control, which states that seat belt usage can reduce the risk of dying by 45% while also cutting the risk of sustaining a serious injury by 50%. In addition, wearing a seat belt lessens the risk of being ejected from the motor vehicle during an accident.
Proper wearing of the seat belt is essential, however. The shoulder and lap belts need to secure the rib cage area, the hips, and the pelvis, allowing these areas to take the brunt of the impact.
When it comes to claiming compensation following an accident, not wearing a seat belt will be a strike against you. Insurance companies will look for any reason to reduce your settlement amount and will not hesitate to use the seat belt defense.
Yet, even if you were not wearing a seat belt when the crash occurred, you can still file an insurance claim and receive some compensation. While you may not be able to seek the maximum amount usually available in such circumstances, seeking the legal advice and representation of an experienced car accident attorney can help you obtain all that is possible.
The different types of damages that you can still get even when not wearing a seat belt in an accident include the following:
Economic damages refer to the actual damages with monetary values that your legal team can easily calculate. Such damages include medical bills, future medical expenses, physical therapy, counseling requirements, vehicle damages and repairs, lost wages, as well as others, depending on your circumstances.
Damages falling in the non-economic category are those that do not have a distinct monetary value and include such things as pain and suffering and loss of companionship. To obtain non-economic damages, you will need to take legal action and file a claim against the other driver.
Punitive damages meant to punish a negligent party are not legally available in Michigan unless a statute expressly authorizes them. Your car accident lawyer can, however, seek what is known as exemplary damages, which are related to the suffering of an emotional injury such as mental anguish.
The benefits of having an attorney, especially when insurance companies are trying to lower a settlement amount, can make all the difference in the compensation you receive following a car accident. Complications can surround an insurance injury claim. You need someone in your corner who is knowledgeable about Michigan personal injury law and the overall settlement possibilities.
Hire a personal injury lawyer with Matz Injury Law to evaluate your case, compile evidence, talk with insurance companies, file a personal injury lawsuit, and, if necessary, prepare your case to go to court. Using our firm means you can concentrate more on healing your injuries and getting back to your daily routines. It can also provide you with peace of mind that you will get the compensation you need and deserve, even when you are found not to be wearing a seat belt. Call for your free case evaluation today.
We represent clients throughout Michigan and will travel to wherever you are to help you with your case. For answers to Michigan car accident questions, you can count on us to provide the legal advice you need and help you obtain compensation for your car accident claim.
Wearing a seat belt while in a vehicle is extremely important to your personal safety. It is also essential for getting the compensation you need if an accident should occur. Not wearing a seat belt can lead to significant reductions in compensation offered by insurance company adjusters, and you may find yourself financially strained should injuries or death occur.
If you or your passengers suffer injuries during a car crash, Matz Injury Law is available to help you with the claims process and will focus on obtaining the compensation you deserve. Contact our law firm today by calling 1-866-22Not33 or use the online form on our website to schedule a free consultation.