What if I was in a car wreck and wasn’t wearing my seatbelt…can I still win damages?
In Alabama you are required to wear a seat belt if the car is in motion and you are in the front seat. Interestingly, if you are seated in the back seat of a car and over 15 years of age you are NOT required to wear a seat belt, even if the car is moving (although, or course, it’s a good idea to always wear a seat belt, no matter which seat you’re in!).
But, what happens if you are in a car wreck and aren’t wearing a seat belt even though you’re in the front seat?
To answer that question we first have to discuss a concept called “contributory negligence.”
Under the contributory negligence principle, if an injured person negligently “contributed” to his own injury then he cannot recover damages (money) from anyone else who caused the injury.
For example, if you step into a busy intersection without looking for oncoming traffic and are hit by a car you may be “contributorily negligent” for your own injuries.
So, does not wearing a seat belt make you contributorily negligent for your injuries in a car wreck?
Alabama has rejected the so-called “seat belt defense,” which applies in some other states to award plaintiffs only the damages they would have recovered had they been wearing a seat belt.
Instead, in Alabama failure to wear a seat belt is NOT evidence of contributory negligence and does not limit the liability of an insurer.
Of course, you should still wear a seat belt because seat belts save lives. When used properly, a seat belt can reduce the risk of fatal injury by front seat passengers by up to 45 percent.