Check yourself before you wreck yourselfIce Cube
The seat belt defense in California is an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is a defense raised by a defendant. An affirmative defense is a defendant’s attempt to blame you for the crash.
How To Prove The Seat Belt Defense?
A defendant must prove 4 things to prove the seat belt defense:
- A working seat belt was available
- A reasonably careful person in your shoes would have used the seat belt
- You failed to wear the seat belt
- Your injures wouldn’t have happened if you only had used the seat belt
Items 1 and 3 are easy for a defendant to prove. Item 2 is easy too. Everyone basically knows that we should use seat belts.
Item 4 is not so easy. A defendant will likely need a medical expert to say that had you worn the seat belt then your injuries wouldn’t have happened. But that seems fairly speculative and it may be beyond the qualificaiton of a medical expert.
What Does California Law Say About The Seat Belt Defense?
Look at CVC § 27315. Known as the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, it basically says you should wear a seat belt. Good advice.
See too CACI 712, the jury instruction for the seat belt defense.
How Does The Seat Belt Defense Work?
If a defendant can prove the seat belt defense, then the jury can blame you for the crash and reduce any damages awarded. For example, say the jury awards $1000,000, but they also find you 50% at fault because you didn’t wear your seat belt. Then the award is reduced to $50,000.
In practice, however, most cases never go to trial so you won’t have to deal a reduction. Instead, you must deal with insurance companies who will use the seat belt defense (and any other defense) to lowball you.
Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.