If you contributed to your injuries in an accident, you may not receive full compensation for your medical bills or lost wages if you file a personal injury claim. This is because a judge, jury or insurance company is able to reduce the amount owed to you based on the percentage of fault they feel that you had in the accident. As such, if you were injured in a car accident and weren't wearing your seat belt, your settlement may be reduced because your injuries were worsened by the fact that you weren't wearing your seat belt. However, taking certain steps can help you to minimize the reduction of your settlement. Here are a few things you should do shortly after being injured in a car accident in which you weren't wearing a seat belt.
Obtain a Police Report
If possible, ask a police officer to respond to the accident scene and write an accident report. The information contained in this report includes the factors that contributed to the accident, why the accident occurred, what weather and road conditions were, and who the police feel was at fault. If you weren't wearing a seat belt, there is a good chance the insurance company will try to state that the injuries you sustained were caused because you weren't wearing the seat belt. An attorney can use all of the information contained in the police report to show a judge or jury what injuries people who were in similar accidents sustained, and prove that the injuries weren't solely caused because you failed to wear your seat belt.
Get Information From Witnesses
Anytime you are involved in a car accident, you want to obtain personal information from any witnesses who saw the crash occur. Many people make the mistake of getting a statement from the witness, or just the witnesses name, but if the witness can't be tracked down when you case goes to trial, that statement and name aren't helpful. An attorney can use the name, address and phone number to track the person down and depose them on what exactly they saw when the car accident occurred. Proving that the other driver was speeding, talking on a cell phone, or otherwise acting negligently can help mitigate some of the fault you have for failing to wear your seat belt.
See a Medical Professional
If you were injured in a car accident, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately. This helps establish a timeline of what issues you felt or experienced and when. This also allows a medical professional to see you immediately following the accident, which can be crucial when your case goes to court. A doctor may be able to explain what injuries are the result of you failing to wear a seat belt and what injuries you would have sustained regardless of whether you had the restraint on or not. Obtaining reports that detail this can go a long way to shutting down an insurance companies claim that you are solely responsible for your injuries.
Consult With, or Hire, a Personal Injury Lawyer
The last thing you should do is consult with, or hire, a personal injury lawyer from a firm like Welsh & Welsh PC LLO. Unfortunately, it is going to be challenging to prove your case if you were injured and had some negligence. These cases can get messy. A lawyer can help advise you on whether you have a claim, how much fault you may have in the accident, how to further prove your injuries were not solely the result of your failing to wear a seat belt and handle all details related to the filing, court appearances and settlement conferences on your behalf.
Individuals who fail to wear a seat belt are more likely to be injured in a car accident. And many insurance companies will argue that had you been wearing a seat belt, the injuries wouldn't have occurred. However, this isn't always the case and you may have been injured even if you were wearing your seat belt. Taking the right action after a car accident can help you get the evidence you need to prove that your injuries weren't solely the result of failing to wear a seat belt, which can help you maximize the amount of money you recover in a personal injury lawsuit.