Can I Recover Damages If I Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt in a Car Accident?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Car Accidents Published on March 10, 2020 and updated on March 6, 2022.

clicking in a seat beltIn Maryland, drivers and certain passengers are legally required to wear their seat belts. But what happens if you are injured in a crash while not wearing a seat belt? Learn whether failing to buckle up could affect your ability to recover damages in a car accident case.

The car accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl are prepared to help protect your rights during the legal process. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to have your questions answered.

Maryland Seat Belt Laws

Under state law, the driver of any motor vehicle must be wearing a seat belt in order to lawfully drive on roadways. Passengers riding in the front seat of a vehicle must also be restrained by a seat belt.

Additionally, passengers under 16 years of age must be properly restrained while riding in a vehicle. Children under the age of eight but over four feet and nine inches in height must use booster seats or other federally approved car seats.

Contributory Negligence in Car Accident Cases

Maryland follows a contributory negligence doctrine for car accident cases, which is more severe than the comparative negligence doctrines followed in many other states.

If a defendant is able to show that the plaintiff committed contributory negligence, the plaintiff can be barred from recovering damages for his or her injuries. If the accident victim was even partially at fault for the accident that caused his or her injuries, he or she may not be able to receive compensation.

While the idea of contributory negligence makes it sound like someone not wearing a seat belt would be unable to pursue compensation for his or her injuries, that is not always the case.

In Maryland, failure to wear a seat belt while driving or riding in a vehicle on  roadways cannot be considered evidence of negligence or even contributory negligence under the law. This means that not wearing a seat belt when the crash occurred cannot be used against you to deny your ability to pursue damages.

Factors That Must Be Proven for Compensation

To have a viable case for compensation, you must prove the following elements:

  1. Duty of care – The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In car accident cases, this is typically the duty of care to act reasonably in order to prevent harm to others on the roadway.
  2. Breached duty – The defendant must have failed to uphold his or her duty. In car accident cases, this may be a traffic law violation such as speeding or running a red light.
  3. Causation – The defendant’s failure to fulfill his or her duty of care caused the plaintiff to become injured. If it had not been for the defendant’s breach of duty, the plaintiff would not have been injured.
  4. Damages As a result of the plaintiff’s injuries, he or she has suffered damages. These may be medical bills, lost wages, property damage or pain and suffering.

Call Us to Explore Your Legal Options

If you were injured in a car accident, a Maryland car accident lawyer from our firm may be able to help you pursue compensation for your injuries and damages.

Our consultations are free and there is no obligation to hire our firm to represent you. If you do decide to move forward, there are no upfront fees and you only pay us if we recover compensation on your behalf.

Get help today. Call our office in Baltimore at 410-244-7005.