Seat belts are an important safety feature in all automobiles on the road today. Failure to wear a poses a serious danger to drivers and vehicle occupants alike. In fact, of the NHTSA reports that half of the people who were not wearing a seat belt during an accident died from the injuries they sustained. That statistic alone should drive home how important and life-saving a seat belt can be.
Negligence laws in Maryland are strict for plaintiffs. If a plaintiff is even a little bit responsible for their own injuries, they could be prevented from recovering any damages at all. Fortunately, not wearing a seat belt will not trigger this incredibly stringent rule and should not stop you from recovering damages in a car accident lawsuit.
Call our Maryland car accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 for a free case analysis.
Contributory Negligence Laws for Seat Belts in Maryland
Maryland is what is known as a contributory negligence state. In a contributory negligence state, plaintiffs who are even 1% at fault for their injuries cannot recover damages in court. This incredibly strict rule makes many plaintiffs with serious injuries unable to recover damages. Our lawyers are seasoned Maryland car accident attorneys, and we can work to craft an argument that does not admit any fault on your behalf.
Seat Belt Laws in Maryland
Under Maryland law, seat belts are required to be worn by everyone inside a motor vehicle. Md. Code, Transp. Art., § 22-412.3 requires that all occupants over the age of 16 wear a seat belt and each occupant under 16 be restrained by a seat belt or child safety seat (e.g., a car seat). While you may think that failing to wear a seat belt could be considered contributory negligence, this is not the case.
Not Wearing a Seat Belt Cannot Constitute Negligence Under the Law
Under Md. Code, Transp. Art. § 22-412.3(h)(ii), failure to wear a seat belt cannot be considered contributory negligence in a court of law. Were this rule not in place, many deserving plaintiffs would be unable to recover damages they desperately need.
This law also prevents the defense from bringing up the fact that you were not wearing a seat belt. This information is especially irrelevant if the injuries you faced would not have been prevented by wearing a seat belt.
Damages Not Lowered for Lack of Seat Belt
Your damages awarded will not be decreased because you were did not have a seat belt on. That means opposing counsel cannot use that point against you to try and get you less compensation. While defense lawyers might try to say something vague about your own carelessness so they can tip-toe around rules about discussing seat belt use, we will fight to ensure this plays no part in lowering how much your claim is worth.
Seat Belt Exceptions
There are some circumstances that would make someone exempt from the requirement to wear a seat belt.
Per Md. Code, Transp. Art., § 22-412.3(d), if a licensed physician has determined that a seat belt would interfere with other restraints necessary to accommodate a disability, that individual is not required to wear a seat belt in a vehicle. This exemption requires a certification stating the nature of the disability and the reason that the individual should be exempt from wearing a seat belt.
If this exemption applies to you and you were in a car accident, you should discuss it with our attorneys so we can build a stronger case for you.
Injuries From Not Wearing a Seat Belt in a Car Accident in Maryland
Not wearing a seat belt dramatically increases the chance that you will receive serious injuries in a car accident. While these injuries can also occur while wearing a seat belt, not wearing a seatbelt could result in a worse injury outcome for you.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are caused by hard blows to the head. Mild traumatic brain injuries (i.e., concussions) can result in temporary adverse effects, like headaches or nausea. However, more serious TBIs can have long-lasting or even permanent side effects. A severe TBI could cause diminished cognitive abilities, persistent headaches, or permanent loss of motor function.
A traumatic brain injury is more likely when someone is not wearing a seat belt because they are not secured in place. In extreme cases, a person not wearing a seat belt could be launched from the car and hit the ground very hard. Therefore, they are more likely to have their head forcefully bump into something in an accident.
Bruises are the result of crushed blood vessels under the skin. The blood pools in the area of the bruise and causes pain and discoloration. Minor bruises often heal on their own; however, serious bruising will need medical attention and, if untreated, could result in death.
Cuts, Lacerations, and Puncture Wounds
Cuts and puncture wounds can happen in car accidents when pieces of warped metal cut or enter the body. Deep cuts will often require extensive stitching to heal properly and could cause permanent disfigurement. In some cases, an accident could result in lost appendages like fingers or toes.
Puncture wounds are almost always significantly more dangerous than cuts. Punctures are harder to suture shut, so they are likely to keep bleeding for longer. Additionally, a puncture wound just a few inches into the body could be fatal if it hits a vital organ.
Call Our Maryland Car Accident Lawyers Today
For a free case review, call our Baltimore car accident lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.