Seeking Compensation if You Were Not Wearing a Seat Belt in a Crash
Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Dec 11, 2019 in Auto Accident
Oregon has strict seat belt laws, and unlike other states, does allow at-fault parties to use the seat belt defense against accident victims.
How does this law affect a potential claim if you were injured in a car crash while not wearing your seatbelt? Can you still pursue compensation for your injuries if you were not at fault for the collision?
The trusted Portland car accident lawyers at Rizk Law have extensive knowledge of the defenses at-fault drivers and their insurance companies may use against accident victims. We are available to discuss Oregon’s seat belt law and how it may impact your potential claim during a free, no-obligation consultation.
Seat Belt Law in Oregon
Like many states, Oregon requires drivers and other occupants in a vehicle to wear a seat belt. However, along with a small handful of other states, Oregon also allows a defendant in a personal injury case to raise a seat belt defense that can limit the amount of damages you can receive if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.
Under Oregon Revised Statute 31.760, if you were supposed to be wearing a seat belt and were not, Oregon permits the at-fault party to use this defense to reduce his or her own liability. The at-fault party can argue that you would not have been hurt as badly if you were wearing a seat belt.
How May Oregon’s Seat Belt Defense Impact My Claim?
Oregon’s seat belt defense may not fully bar you from being able to pursue compensation. However, if the defendant can prove that you were not wearing your seat belt at the time of an accident, this fact can be used to reduce the amount of compensation you may be eligible to receive.
Countering the Seat Belt Defense
Even though the seat belt defense may be raised, this does not necessarily mean it will be successful. An experienced personal injury lawyer may raise certain legal arguments to counter this defense, which could include:
- While your injuries may have been less severe if you wore a seat belt, it would not have prevented the accident from occurring.
- Depending on your body type, since seat belts are designed for a person of average height and weight, wearing a seat belt could potentially have made your injuries more severe – or the outcome may simply have been the same even if you were wearing a seat belt.
- It is impossible to accurately determine which injuries may have been attributed to the accident versus those that were caused by not wearing a seat belt.
Modified Comparative Fault
Oregon uses a modified comparative fault system that can impact your personal injury claim. Under this system, you may be eligible to recover compensation for an accident even if your own negligence contributed to the accident, provided you are assigned no more than 51 percent fault. However, your damages award is reduced by your degree of fault, so if you are found to be 20 percent at fault, your award can be reduced by 20 percent.
If the at-fault party uses the seat belt defense, and is successful, your award may be reduced by up to five percent. However, if your failure to use a seat belt is found to be a substantial contributing cause of the accident, your damages may be reduced even further. That is why it is a good idea to hire an attorney to protect your best interests.
Contact Rizk Law for Help with Your Claim
If you were injured in a car accident and were not wearing a seat belt, it is important that you seek knowledgeable legal assistance as soon as possible. Our knowledgeable lawyers at Rizk Law are ready to evaluate your claim to determine whether you may have a viable case.
You may be able to receive compensation for your property damage, medical bills and lost income, in addition to the pain and suffering you sustained. Contact us today to learn more about how we may be able to help you with your claim.