If you are in a collision with a reckless driver and you sustain debilitating injuries, your first thought may be to file a claim against the liable motorist. But what if you were not wearing a seat belt and, as a result, your injuries are more severe than they probably would have been?
When you are in a car accident with a drunk, distracted, or otherwise negligent driver, you have the right to pursue compensation for any damages you incurred; however, if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, it could inhibit you from being compensated for your total amount of damages.
There are seat belt laws in 49 of the 50 states for a reason: Seat belts save lives. Even New Hampshire, which has not enacted a safety restraint law for adults, requires that all drivers and passengers who are younger than 18 years old wear a seat belt.
If you were hurt in an accident and you believe that the at-fault driver might contend that your own negligence was a contributing factor, contact Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, PLC. A Cedar Rapids personal injury attorney will help you gather evidence to prove that the other driver is in fact liable for your damages. Call 319-393-1020 to schedule a free case evaluation.
What Are the Seat Belt Laws in Iowa?
Iowa has primary seat belt laws, which means that police can pull over and ticket drivers who are not wearing their seat belts, even if they did not commit any other traffic violation. In states with secondary laws, police can only issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt if the motorist committed another citable traffic offense first.
The Iowa seat belt laws apply to all drivers and passengers, with a few exceptions. These include:
- Drivers and passengers riding in vehicles that were manufactured prior to 1966;
- Drivers in work vehicles that must make frequent stops, as long as they do not travel faster than 25 mph between stops;
- Rural letter carriers;
- Bus passengers; and
- People with a valid DOT-exemption form that is signed by a doctor and states why they cannot wear a seat belt.
How Can Seat Belt Laws Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
When determining fault and awarding compensation in personal injury cases, Iowa courts use a legal doctrine called modified comparative negligence. Under this system of fault, injured parties may recover compensation even if they are partially liable for their damages; however, they cannot recover anything if they were more than 50 percent responsible. If they were less than 50 percent responsible, they can only recover the percentage of damages for which they were not liable.
Thus, if you were in a collision with a drunk driver, the judge might determine that the inebriated motorist was responsible for the collision but that you were 5 percent responsible for your injuries because you were not wearing a seat belt at the time. In such a scenario, you would only be able to recover 95 percent of the damages you incurred. Pursuant to Iowa State Law Section 321.445, failure to wear a seat belt can reduce a plaintiff’s total recoverable damages by no more than 5 percent.
If you were hurt in a car accident and you want to file a claim, turn to Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, PLC. Call 319-393-1020 to schedule a free consultation with an accident lawyer in Cedar Rapids. You can learn more about personal injury claims in Iowa by visiting USAttorneys.com.