Sometimes, defining who was at-fault for an accident is not as clear. In the event that you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident, you may be wondering if you are still eligible to collect compensation. After all, you did not cause the accident, but you did suffer additional injuries due to your failure to wear proper safety restraints.
Pennsylvania, like most states, allows you to seek compensation from an accident, even when you are partially at-fault for your injuries – this includes not wearing your seatbelt in a car accident. This is known as contributory negligence. But, just because you can collect compensation does not mean that your failure to wear a seatbelt automatically allows you to file a suit. The amount of negligence that you contribute to the accident will play a critical role in determining how much compensation that you are entitled to. The damages that you seek can also be limited and, in some cases, you could be barred from seeking compensation entirely.
If you feel that you may be partially at-fault for your injuries in your recent accident, contact an attorney right away. An attorney can help you assess your case and determine if you can still collect under contributory negligence rules.
What is Negligence?
Negligence refers to a type of wrongdoing that results in another person sustaining a serious injury. In order to file a civil claim and seek compensation, you must show that the defendant (the at-fault party) was negligent in some way, and that his or her negligence led to your injury. All personal injury claims are founded on the basis of negligence – without negligence present, you do not have a valid claim nor can you seek compensation.
To prove negligence, you must prove that the other party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to a person’s responsibility to behave safely. For example, if the driver who caused the accident was texting while driving, as a driver, he or she has a duty of care owed to other drivers to follow the rules of the road and be responsible behind the wheel. By texting, the driver breached his or her duty of care; therefore, the driver is responsible for your injuries under the rule of negligence.
When you file a claim for personal injury, the negligence and fault are often closely related. This means that the person who was negligent is most likely at-fault for the accident. But, in the case where you are partially at-fault, the lines can become blurred. After all, you did not wear a seatbelt, and because you failed to wear your restraint, you suffered injuries that are more serious. So, you are technically at-fault for your injuries, as well – even though the defendant’s negligence was the main contributing factor to the accident itself.
How Comparative Negligence Plays a Role
Comparative negligence laws fall under Pennsylvania Statute Section 7102. You are not barred from compensation, even if you were partially at-fault for your injuries. But, the amount of fault that you hold will play a role in your compensation. The state of Pennsylvania will only allow you to seek compensation if you were less than 51 percent at-fault for the injuries that you sustained. If you were more than 51 percent, you cannot collect compensation and will be barred from filing a complaint.
Also, the amount of negligence that you contributed will determine your total compensation. If the courts find that you are 40 percent negligent, your total compensation amount will be reduced by 40 percent. So, if you were awarded $100,000, it would be reduced by 40 percent (or $40,000) to cover your negligence contribution.
Were You Partially At-Fault? Speak with an Attorney
While you may have been partially at-fault for your injuries, you still need to speak with an attorney right away. An attorney can help preserve evidence and prevent the other side from trying to increase your negligence contribution to more than 51 percent. Contact The Slocum Firm, PC today to discuss your case at 888-367-4577, or fill out our online contact form with your legal questions.