I was in a car accident and wasn't wearing my seatbelt. How will that affect my insurance claim?
Wisconsin law requires drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts. Not wearing a seatbelt can affect how much money you recover from an insurance company for damages and injuries sustained in an accident. Wisconsin's law requiring safety belt use allows a damage claim to be reduced by as much as 15 percent for parties not wearing safety belts, according to Brent Smith, a Johns, Flaherty & Collins attorney.
Why allow this reduction? According to the National Safety Council, the cost of hospitalization is at least 50 percent higher for crash victims not wearing a seatbelt than those who are belted.
If a case involves significant injuries, either side may decide to hire an expert, a biomechanical engineer, to determine how significantly the failure to wear a seatbelt affected the injuries.
"A biomechanical engineer takes all of the information from the accident and uses medical information and principles of physics to determine how the lack of a seatbelt enhanced the resulting injuries," Smith said. "It's a complicated scientific process."
Other facts, including negligence, also can affect the size of the claim.
The bottom line, according to Smith, is wear your seatbelt. "Seatbelts reduce injuries and save lives."
Information provided by Brent Smith, a personal injury and insurance lawyer at Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For a personal injury or insurance lawyer in La Crosse, contact him at 608-784-5678.