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Seat belt non-use & car accident compensation eligibility

November 11, 2021 By John Torgenson

Arizona’s Comparative Negligence Laws

Wearing a seat belt is one of the best ways to prevent severe injuries and fatalities in the event a vehicle accident occurs. Arizona has seat belt laws in place that require those inside a vehicle to buckle up at all times. Arizona is also one of the states where a person may receive reduced compensation if they were not wearing a seatbelt and sustained an injury when a collision occurred. Here, we want to discuss how your compensation can be affected by not wearing a seat belt in a car accident caused by another driver.

Arizona Law Requires Seatbelt Usage

When we turn to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 28-909, we can see that all front-seat drivers or passengers in Arizona are required to use seatbelts while the vehicle is in motion. Additionally, any passenger under the age of 16 is required to wear a seat belt, regardless of where they are located in the vehicle.

Can the Other Side Use the Seatbelt Defense?

Because not wearing a seat belt is against the law in the state of Arizona, any driver at fault for causing a vehicle accident (including their insurance carrier or legal team) could use the “seat belt defense” in an effort to reduce the amount of money they have to pay for a vehicle accident claim. The seat belt defense is not applicable in many states across the country, but the Arizona courts have allowed this defense in the past.

When using the seat belt defense, the defendant in a car accident case will argue that the injury victim would have been unharmed, or their injuries would have been less severe, if they had won a seat belt as required by law.
If the case goes to court, the jury will be required to examine various factors before applying the seat belt defense. Some of these factors include examining:

  • Whether failing to wear the seat belt was unreasonable.
  • Whether or not wearing a seat belt made their injuries worse than they would have otherwise been.
  • Evidence about whether or not there is a reasonable probability that the injuries were enhanced because the seat belt was not worn.

Arizona’s Comparative Negligence Laws

Arizona operates under a “pure comparative negligence” system. This means that individuals can still recover compensation even if they are partially responsible for causing their own injuries. In other words, even if the seat belt defense is successful, individuals can still likely recover compensation for their injuries. However, the total amount of compensation an individual receives will be reduced based on their percentage of fault.

For example, if a crash victim sustained $100,000 worth of medical expenses, but a jury determines that the individual was 30% responsible for causing their injuries because they did not wear a seat belt, then the individual would receive $70,000 instead of the full $100,000.

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John Torgenson

John Torgenson is a highly experienced personal injury lawyer with over 20 years of practice in Arizona. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Notre Dame. John has a proven track record of securing substantial verdicts and settlements, including an $8.25 million recovery for a gunshot injury victim. His expertise has earned him AVVO ratings and recognition as a Super Lawyer.

John is also a sought-after lecturer on personal injury law, sharing his extensive knowledge with peers and aspiring attorneys. Beyond his legal practice, John is an avid golfer and actively supports organizations like the Military Assistance Mission, Arizona School for the Arts, Page Balloon Regatta, University of Arizona Foundation, Junior Achievement of Arizona, and the Tim Huff Pro Bono Golf Classic.

Passionate about advocating for injury victims, John dedicates his career to battling insurance companies and corporate interests, ensuring that the rights of those who are hurt are vigorously defended.