Can I Claim Compensation if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt in MA?
The good news is that you can recover damages in Massachusetts even if you were not wearing a seat belt in a car accident. However, not wearing one could impact the amount of compensation you recover.
Although you can still file a claim, your compensation might be significantly reduced if the insurance company or their lawyers prove that your injuries could have been prevented or lessened had you worn a seatbelt. This is because Massachusetts follows a contributory negligence rule. This means that the amount of compensation you eventually recover can be reduced by the percentage that not wearing a seatbelt contributed to your injuries. Fortunately, the lack of a seatbelt alone is not enough to prevent you from exercising your right to claim compensation.
To get your free case review today with our Boston car accident attorneys, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407.
Can I Recover Compensation if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt in a Massachusetts Car Accident?
In Massachusetts, Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 90 § 13A requires every person riding in a passenger motor vehicle to wear a seat belt that is properly fastened and adjusted. Statistics are overwhelming that failure to wear a seat belt leads to increasingly higher numbers of deaths and serious injuries if you are injured in a car accident. Despite the requirement to wear a seat belt in Massachusetts, you cannot be denied compensation because you were not wearing a seat belt.
Massachusetts is one of several states that does not allow the fact that a victim was not wearing a seat belt to be used as evidence of contributory negligence against them in a lawsuit. The fact that a victim is not wearing a seat belt is insufficient to be submitted to a jury unless the failure to wear a seat belt was causally related to her injuries. Evidence that someone has not worn a seat belt cannot be held against them unless the failure to wear a seat belt was causally related to the injuries sustained.
This means that if you were injured in a car accident and were not wearing a seat belt, you can still file a lawsuit, but it might affect how much money you can potentially collect. Fortunately, our Massachusetts car accident lawyers can evaluate your case and determine how not wearing a seatbelt will affect the compensation you recover. Your negligence can be considered a contributing factor to your injuries if it exacerbates them. For example, if someone runs into your car and you are wearing a seat belt, you might sustain minor injuries such as bruising and soreness, whereas you might have more significant injuries such as a broken nose or arm if you are not wearing one.
How Does Contributory Negligence Reduce the Compensation I Can Recover if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, evidence that an injured person was not wearing a seat belt during a crash might be admissible to prove comparative negligence if the other driver can show that the failure to wear a belt caused or contributed to the injuries. Under the comparative negligence doctrine, you might only be able to recover damages proportional to the other driver’s fault.
Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231 § 85 establishes a modified comparative negligence rule. According to this rule, if the plaintiff’s negligence exceeds the combined negligence of all defendants, the plaintiff is barred from recovering damages. If the plaintiff’s negligence is 50% or less, they might recover damages, but the award is reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff. However, if the plaintiff is found to have contributed less than 50% towards the accident, they can still recover compensation.
Another critical aspect of comparative negligence is that the plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their share of the blame. For instance, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages but is found to be 40 percent at fault for not wearing a seatbelt, the damages award are reduced by 40 percent. Therefore, the plaintiff would receive a net damages award of $60,000.
How Do I Claim Compensation for a Car Accident in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts operates under a “no-fault” car insurance system, which means that your own car insurance coverage is generally responsible for paying for medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of an accident, regardless of who caused the collision. In case of injury, you can request personal injury protection (PIP) benefits from your insurance provider to cover expenses such as necessary and reasonable medical bills, lost wages or earnings, and ordinary household services. The maximum amount of PIP that can be collected for all expenses is $8,000. However, if you have insurance, PIP benefits will only cover up to $2,000 in medical bills.
In this system, you are not eligible to receive compensation for non-monetary damages such as pain and suffering. However, if you have incurred medical expenses of at least $2,000 or have suffered permanent and serious disfigurement, a fractured bone, or substantial loss of hearing or sight, you can pursue a claim in addition to Massachusetts’ no-fault insurance system.
If your injuries satisfy the necessary conditions, you are not restricted to a no-fault claim through your personal insurance. As a proficient car accident and injury lawyer, I can assist you in holding the other driver accountable for all of your damages, including non-monetary losses and pain and suffering, by helping you pursue a third-party car insurance claim or file a personal injury lawsuit.
What Damages Can I Claim After a Massachusetts Car Accident?
As mentioned, it is possible to receive compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident, even if you were not wearing a seatbelt. Not wearing a seatbelt might result in a reduction of various forms of damage, but it doesn’t prevent you from claiming the full range of losses you suffered. Typically, economic damages are awarded, but if the injuries are serious, non-economic damages can also be granted.
Proving losses in an accident involves showing economic damages that can be backed up with receipts, bills, or other documents. This includes medical expenses incurred for treatment and rehabilitation of any injuries. Compensation can be obtained for both past and future medical bills resulting from the injuries.
If the injuries sustained prevent you from working, you can recover lost wages. You can also receive compensation if you have to return to work in a reduced capacity due to an extended recovery time or additional injuries that occur later as a result of the accident.
If you experience physical pain and mental suffering due to an accident, you can seek compensation for it, which is commonly referred to as non-economic damages or “pain and suffering.” Non-economic damages include emotional distress, loss of companionship, and other damages that do not involve financial loss. These damages are difficult to evaluate and are awarded less frequently than economic damages. To prove that you have suffered non-economic damages, it is usually necessary to provide expert testimony from a doctor who specializes in treating similar injuries.
Our Massachusetts Car Accident Attorneys Can Help
Reach out to the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 for a free evaluation of your case with our Somerville car accident attorneys.