Q & A: I wasn't wearing my seat belt. Do I still have a case?
Yes, you probably do. Sometimes, the injuries in a car accident were not actually caused by the failure to wear a shoulder/lap belt and in some rare instances, the harm would have been worse had the person been wearing the restraint.
Even in cases, where failure to wear a seat belt contributed to the injuries, Arizona is a comparative fault state so these issues aren't black and white (see my blog on this). ARS Sec.12-2505. Comparative negligence and ARS Sec.12-2506 set forth this the law on this subject. Basically, the value of a case is determined by multiplying the total amount of damages recoverable by the Defendant's percentage of each of fault. Most injury cases are still worth pursuing even if some percentage of the harm was caused by the failure to wear a seat belt.
Lastly, these issues aren't always as simple as people think. While it is generally considered a good idea to wear a seat belt, the law isn't as comprehensive. Arizona Law (ARS Sec. 28-909) requires front seat passengers and passengers under 16 years old to wear lap and shoulder belts while the vehicle is in motion. This law only pertains to vehicles of model year 1972 and newer and those that carry 10 or fewer passengers. Therefore, our "seat belt" law does not apply to those in the back seat, in vintage cars or in large passenger vehicles like buses.
Jay Ciulla is a Phoenix personal injury and wrongful death lawyer.