Several states, including Ohio, require drivers and passengers to buckle up, issuing fines to those who fail to comply with the law.
However, even if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of a car accident, you may still have a right to pursue compensation from the driver at fault or their insurance company.
How Does Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Liability in Ohio?
If you were in a car crash in Ohio and did not comply with state seat belt laws, it does not necessarily mean you were responsible for your injuries and property damage. The at-fault driver is still liable for your financial damages.
What if I Was Partly Responsible for the Crash?
While not wearing a seat belt may not mean you are responsible for your injuries, authorities can hold you partially responsible for the crash and the resulting harm for other reasons. The other driver may hold you responsible as well, saying that not wearing an adult seat belt made your injuries and/or losses worse.
Ohio is a comparative negligence state, meaning multiple parties can bear some percentage of liability for an accident. For example, if you were speeding but the other driver failed to yield on a left turn, a judge might find both of you acted negligently. Negligence entails a failure to exercise the expected level of care and caution in a certain situation.
As long as you are no more than 50 percent responsible for the crash, you can pursue compensation from the at-fault driver accountable for your losses. An injury attorney can build your case to show how the other driver was more responsible for the accident than you were.
How Does It Affect My Settlement if I Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt at the Time of My Car Accident?
Ohio Revised Code Section 2315.33 allows the judge to “diminish a recovery of compensatory damages,” or non-economic damages if an injured party was not wearing a seat belt. That means there is no impact on losses like hospital bills, ongoing medical costs, and lost wages. But you may not be able to pursue as much compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or diminished quality of life.
The degree to which not wearing a seat belt affects compensation depends upon how much it is likely to have contributed to your suffering. For instance, if you initially sought $1,000 for non-economic damages, but the judge or jury finds that your not wearing a seat belt compounded your suffering by 25%, you may only receive $750.
What Are Ohio’s Seat Belt Laws?
In Ohio, all drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seat belts. Children between the ages of 8 and 15 must wear a seat belt as well, even if they are in the backseat, and children younger than age 8 must be strapped into a car seat, booster seat, or safety seat, depending on their age and weight.
Drivers who do wear a seat belt could be fined $30 for not wearing one, and their passengers could be fined $20.
What if I Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt at the Time of My Car Accident and I Was a Passenger?
Whether you were a passenger or driver may have little or no bearing on the amount of compensation you can pursue for non-economic damages. If you were riding as a passenger in a vehicle, you could hire an accident lawyer to file an insurance claim against the liable party’s insurer, even if it’s the policy of the driver of the car you were in. If a third party is responsible for the accident, you could also seek compensation from them as well. Third parties can include anyone responsible for factors that led to or caused the crash.
Before determining who the third party or parties are, an attorney must investigate the crash to find out what happened so they can know who to hold responsible for the accident.
What Types of Compensation Can You Seek After an Ohio Car Crash?
If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of your car accident, you may have suffered grievous injuries, including fractures, spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injuries, all of which can have a substantial short- and long-term impact on your overall health and well-being.
The compensation you can seek includes but are not limited to the following damages:
- Current and reasonably anticipated medical bills
- Ongoing healthcare costs, including physical or occupational therapy, medical devices and equipment, and in-home care
- Lost income for hours you missed because of your injuries
- Diminished earning potential if you cannot return to your previous job because of your injuries
- Reduced quality of life
- Past and future emotional pain and anguish
A personal injury lawyer can help you identify all the losses for which you are eligible to seek compensation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit for a Motor Vehicle Accident in Ohio?
According to Ohio Revised Code § 2305.10 (a), you have two years from the accident date to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. There are exceptions, which an attorney can advise you on after learning more about your situation.
The longer you wait to pursue a financial settlement for your losses, the harder it may be to make your case. This is partially because it can become harder to round up evidence of negligence from the scene, like security footage or eyewitness testimonies.
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What Compensation Can I Recover After a Car Crash?
The compensation you can recover depends on several factors, including seat belt use. However, you could obtain compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Miscellaneous accident-related expenses
- Pain and suffering and mental anguish (seat belt use can affect what you can recover for this)
- Other accident-related expenses
Our team can help you determine your case’s potential value.
Our Team Can Help You After an Accident, Regardless of Seat Belt Use
If you suffered an injury in a car accident, turn to The Fitch Law Firm LLC for support in pursuing the compensation you deserve. Call us to discuss your case with a personal injury team member today. We offer free, confidential consultations so we can advise you on your options for seeking a claim for damages or if you can take civil action to recover them.
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