First things first: properly using a seat belt can save your life—but sometimes, drivers choose not to wear one. If you weren’t wearing a seat belt during an accident, you should know it’s still possible to recover for damages and injuries. However, it’s important you understand that Virginia seat belt and negligence laws may be important in your claim.
A Seat Belt Violation Is a Secondary Offense in VA
In the U.S., seat belt violations are codified as either primary or secondary offenses. In most states, not wearing a seat belt is considered a primary offense—meaning a police officer can pull a driver over for that reason alone. In Virginia, it is a secondary offense, so an officer must have pulled you over for another violation in order to ticket you or your adult passenger for not wearing a seat belt.
However, it is a primary offense in Virginia for a minor to ride in a vehicle without a seat belt. So it’s lawful for an officer to ticket you if a child is unrestrained or improperly restrained in your vehicle.
Fault Matters Most
More importantly, Virginia is one of four states that operates under a pure contributory negligence rule—meaning that if you were even 10% at fault for your own injuries, you can’t sue for compensation. However, perhaps another driver (who was 100% at fault) injured you in an accident, but you weren’t wearing your seat belt. Is that driver allowed to argue that your decision to forego wearing a seat belt constitutes negligence on your part? The answer is no—because Virginia law officially says:
- A violation of the seat belt law cannot be used against the injured party as evidence of negligence
- The violation may not be used as an argument to decrease monetary compensation for injuries
- The injured party was in no way responsible for the initial cause of the accident, even though not wearing a seat belt may have contributed to the severity of injuries
However, it’s important to recognize that a seat belt violation may be used against you if you were in any way negligent in the cause of the accident.
Ask an Attorney to Review Your Case
If you are not sure whether you are eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident, you should contact a trustworthy attorney. At Tavss Fletcher, we can review the details of your case and help you understand your options for recovery. Contact us today by starting a live online chat on our website.