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Evidence of Seat Belt Use in Virginia Car Accident Cases

Under Virginia Code § 46.2-1094, drivers, front-seat passengers, and any passengers under 18 years old, must wear a seat belt. Seat belts are a critical safety mechanism, and individuals who do not wear them properly are at a heightened risk for serious injury or death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most recent statistics suggest that almost 50% of people who die in a motor vehicle crash were not wearing seat belts. Despite these startling statistics, people still choose not to wear seat belts, and increase their risk of severe injuries in a Virginia car accident.

There are many instances where Virginia car accident victims fear that their failure to use a seat belt will affect their ability to recover financially, even when they are involved in an accident through no fault of their own. For example, insurance companies and their defense teams may try to limit their payouts by claiming that the injury victim was contributorily negligent for failing to wear a seat belt. However, although Virginia requires certain passengers to wear seat belts, the law does not allow evidence of non-use to be considered for evidence of negligence or a means to mitigate damages.

Thus, a defense attorney cannot refer to an injury victim’s seat belt use during a trial. Further, although defendants may introduce evidence that the plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages, they cannot argue that the plaintiff’s injuries would have been less severe if they were wearing a seat belt. The idea behind the statute is that, despite the plaintiff’s seat belt use, the injuries would not have occurred if the defendant was not driving negligently. Further, one of the essential purposes behind tort law is to deter the public from engaging in negligent behavior, and arguing about seat belt use shifts responsibility from the defendant to the plaintiff. Keeping in mind, however, that Virginia law does not allow seat belt use as evidence in a personal injury claim, the consequences of non-use can be disastrous.

For example, recently, a driver in a single-vehicle Virginia car accident was arrested and charged with DUI-manslaughter, DUI-Maiming, and driving with a revoked license. According to a local news report, the man was under the influence when he was speeding and ran his car off the road, causing it to hit an embankment and flip over. One of the passengers, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown out of the vehicle and died at the scene. Two other passengers were flown to a hospital for serious injuries.

Have You Been Involved in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or someone you know has suffered serious injuries in a Virginia car accident, contact the dedicated injury attorneys at Robinson Law, PLLS. Our Fairfax injury attorneys have extensive experience successfully representing Virginia personal injury victims in all types of personal injury claims. Our knowledgeable lawyers have the unique skills and experience to understand and overcome the challenges that even the most complex personal injury cases entail. Our lawyers have recovered compensation for our clients’ medical bills, ongoing medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We continue to provide diligent representation through the current COVID-19 pandemic. Contact our office at 703-649-4500 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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