Does Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Car Accident Claims?
Since 2004 wearing a seat belt while either driving or as a front seat passenger has been mandatory.
Ohio Revised Code 4513.263 states:
(B) No person shall do any of the following:
(1) Operate an automobile on any street or highway unless that person is wearing all of the available elements of a properly adjusted occupant restraining device, or operate a school bus that has an occupant restraining device installed for use in its operator’s seat unless that person is wearing all the available elements of the device, as properly adjusted.
In a personal injury case, some states allow for reduced damages if the driver or passenger were not wearing their seat belt. This “seat belt defense” is permitted in Ohio to compare the negligence of both the victim and the at fault party. Under comparative negligence, the victim’s recovery may be reduced if she was not wearing her seat belt. In essence, she was at fault for not wearing her seatbelt. In fact the jury may find that she was more negligent than the at-fault party precluding any recovery at all!
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During an accident, there are two impacts. First, the primary contact caused by the negligence of the at-fault party and the second involves the impact to the victim within the interior of the automobile. Although the victim did not cause the primary impact, her non-use of the seat belt can cause further personal injury during the secondary impact within the vehicle. The at-fault party must prove that the victim would have had fewer injuries had she been wearing her seat belt. As an example, in a head on collision it’s clear that the responsible person caused the primary contact but without a seat belt would the head injury suffered in the secondary impact be caused from the initial impact or the non-use of the seat belt?
Studies have shown that use of seat belts lessens injuries during a collision. Without their use, Ohio allows personal injuries to either be reduced or disallowed precluding the victim from recovering both compensatory and non-compensatory damages.
Ohio does not require an adult to where their seat belt in the back seat. In fact, according to a study, about 30 percent of passengers admit they don’t always use their seat belt. Rear-seat riders are eight times as likely to be injured or killed in a crash. So choosing not to use your seat belt in the back increases the likelihood of suffering serious and debilitating injuries.
Finally in Ohio, children over the age of 13 can legally ride in the front seat. While all children under age 16 must wear a seat belt in the car, whether they are seated in the front or back seat. At age 16 or older, the driver of the vehicle and all occupants in the front seat must wear a seat belt
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Dennis E. Sawan
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Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan
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