Because Nevada requires drivers to wear seat belts, some drivers who get into car accidents after failing to buckle up assume they cannot seek insurance payments. But this is a mistake.
Nevada law (NRS 484D. 495 (4)(b)) states that the failure to wear a seat belt “may not be considered as negligence or as causation in any civil action,” such as a personal injury lawsuit. In other words, your decision to go without a seat belt does not itself make you legally responsible for a car accident. However, because of the way Nevada awards compensation in personal injury cases, the lack of a seat belt could affect the amount of compensation you recover.
You should speak to an experienced car accident attorney if you have been injured in a car accident in Nevada by another motorist and the lack of a seat belt may be an issue. Some insurance adjusters might try to tell you that you are barred from making a claim. An attorney at Sam & Ash, LLP in Las Vegas can help you understand your legal rights.
Our attorneys can make sure Nevada law is applied correctly to your car accident injury claim. We’ll fight for What’s Right and help you pursue the full compensation available by law.
Nevada’s Seat Belt Law
Every state except New Hampshire requires adults to wear a seat belt when driving a car or sitting in the front passenger seat. All states have requirements for underage drivers and passengers in the front seat. The Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) has information about seat belt laws across the country.
Nevada’s seat belt law (NRS 484D.495) makes it a secondary offense for anyone over age 6 or 60 pounds to ride in a motor vehicle without wearing a seat belt. Children younger than 6 and lighter than 6 pounds must be secured in a car seat or a booster seat approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Secondary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to issue tickets for not wearing a seat belt only when there is another citable traffic infraction, such as after stopping someone for speeding or making an illegal turn.
If you are ticketed for not wearing a seat belt in Nevada, you may be fined up to $25. There will be no points added to your driver’s license.
As stated above, whether you were wearing a seat belt has no bearing on deciding who caused a car accident or whether you deserve to be compensated. Nevada law says the failure to use a seat belt cannot be considered misuse or abuse of a product or as a cause of injury in a product liability claim.
That said, a seat belt is the best protection available should you get into a car accident. If you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says.
How Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affects Your Car Accident Claim
To obtain compensation in a personal injury claim, the injured party must prove that:
- They suffered an injury,
- The defendant was negligent, and
- The defendant’s negligence was the cause of the injury suffered by the plaintiff
The defendant may present evidence showing that negligence on the part of the plaintiff contributed to the plaintiff’s injury.
If the defendant can show that the plaintiff’s decision not to wear a seat belt contributed more to his or her injury than the cause of the crash, then the plaintiff may not recover compensation. However, even if the plaintiff is negligent, he or she may still recover a reduced amount of damages if his negligence was less than that of the defendant.
This is what is known as comparative negligence.
If a Clark County civil jury decides the accident victim is entitled to compensation, the jury must report the total amount of damages the plaintiff would be entitled to recover without regard to his contributory negligence. The jury also must separately decide the percentage of negligence it attributes to each motorist in the accident.
A jury may decide that the defendant caused the crash, and the total damages are $100,000. But the jury may decide that not wearing a seat belt was negligence that contributed in part to the plaintiff’s injuries and that the plaintiff, therefore, deserves 40% of the blame for their injuries (not for the accident). In this case, the plaintiff would recover $60,000. That is the original award reduced by 40%.
It is up to the lawyers presenting each side of the case to persuade the jury as to who was to blame for the accident and how much of the blame each side should bear. That is why you should have an accomplished Las Vegas trial attorney handle your injury claim.
As personal injury attorneys representing the accident victim, the attorneys at Sam & Ash, LLP may have medical experts testify about our client’s injuries and whether wearing a seatbelt would have prevented a specific injury. For example, studies show that seat belts offer less protection against head, neck, arm, and leg injuries in car accidents than they do other parts of the body. Even the NHTSA’s seat belt statistics cited above – 50% reduction in risk of injury and 45% reduction in risk of death – imply that a plaintiff not wearing a seat belt should recover damages.
Contact Our Las Vegas Car Accident Lawyers
Your lack of a seat belt does not necessarily bar you from recovering compensation for car accident injuries someone else caused. But you’ll need a strong lawyer to present a persuasive case as to why you should receive compensation. Let an experienced Las Vegas car accident lawyer from Sam & Ash, LLP help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Talk with a lawyer at Sam & Ash before agreeing to any settlement an insurance adjuster proposes about your car accident. Call us today for a free consultation.