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How Not Wearing a Seat Belt Impacts Your Car Accident Claim

Steven Matz
November 17, 2022 | Car Accident

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.

Driver not wearing seatbelt

What Are the Most Common Injuries in a Car Accident Without a Seat Belt?

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.

Facial Injuries

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.

Dental Injuries

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

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.

Broken Bones

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).

What Are the Consequences of Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

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.

How Effective is Wearing a 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.

How is Your Compensation Affected by Not Wearing a Seat belt?

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.

Damages for Victims Who Were Not Wearing a Seat belt

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

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.

Non-economic Damages

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

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.

Why Should You Hire Matz Injury Law?

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 Goes Beyond Simple Safety

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.

steven matz headshot

Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.