Despite the numerous safety features present in modern vehicles, car accidents can result in serious injuries. These injuries can be made even worse when individuals do not take advantage of some of the safety features provided by cars, namely, using their seatbelts. In 2021, roughly half of all passengers killed in motor vehicle accidents were not wearing their seatbelt. Because seatbelts are so effective at saving lives, all states require drivers to wear seatbelts by law. These laws may confuse people injured in car accidents where they were not wearing seatbelts as to whether they can still file a lawsuit.
There is nothing preventing residents of Georgia from filing a lawsuit after a car accident in which they were not wearing a seatbelt. In fact, there are laws in place that prevent the fact that the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt from influencing a lawsuit’s outcome.
Call Howe Law’s Georgia car accident lawyers to talk about your case for free at (844) 876-4357.
Seatbelt Laws in Georgia
Like all states, Georgia has particular laws regarding seatbelt usage as well as rules regarding the mention of seatbelts in car accident lawsuits. In general, whether you were wearing a seatbelt or not cannot be factored into your ability to get compensation for your injuries in a car accident lawsuit. This law is in place for several reasons. First, it is not in the interest of the justice system to let wrongdoers off the hook on legal technicalities, and second, denying plaintiffs the damages they need to recover from their injuries may deteriorate trust in the legal system.
Passengers Must Wear Seatbelts
Under O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(b), each and every passenger of a motor vehicle in Georgia must wear a seatbelt. That is the legal standard to which drivers and passengers are held. However, this should not dissuade you from thinking about filing a lawsuit with our car accident lawyers against someone who injured you in a car accident.
Not Wearing a Seatbelt as Evidence in a Court of Law
The defense cannot use the fact that you were not wearing a seatbelt against you in a lawsuit for damages sustained in a car accident. Specifically, the fact that you were not using a seatbelt cannot be used to show that you were negligent or that you caused your own injuries. This means that the defendant cannot claim that they are in the clear because you were not wearing a seatbelt, nor can they ask the jury to award less damages because you were not wearing a seatbelt.
However, there is nothing in the text of this section that prohibits the fact that you did not wear a seatbelt from being brought up in court. Some states will outright prohibit the mention of seatbelt use in a car accident lawsuit. In Georgia, however, failure to use a seatbelt can be mentioned in court, and it could have an effect on the outcome, even if the law says it is not allowed.
Our lawyers know the effects that mentioning that you were not wearing a seatbelt can have on a jury, so we can fight to have that information suppressed or excluded from trial on the grounds that it would overly prejudice the jury to favor the defendant.
Criminal Penalties for Not Wearing a Seatbelt
Even though failure to wear a seatbelt cannot factor into a defendant’s liability (or lack thereof) in a car accident lawsuit, you still can face criminal penalties for failure to wear a seatbelt. The criminal penalties for failure to wear a seatbelt in Georgia are located in O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(e)(2). Although the penalties are relatively minor ($15 or less in fines), the outcome of your case will be stored with the Department of Driver Services.
Seatbelt Law Exceptions in Georgia
There are some circumstances where the seatbelt requirement is waived in Georgia. These exceptions are found under O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(c). Some of these circumstances will not necessarily apply to many car accidents. For example, passengers are not required to wear seatbelts in vehicles not required to have seatbelts by Federal law, such as passenger buses. Other vehicles exempt from seatbelt requirements under Georgia law include delivery vehicles making frequent stops at under 15 miles an hour or “rural letter carriers” of the United States Postal Service. Below, we’ll go into some of the more frequently encountered exceptions to seatbelt laws in Georgia.
If you have a written statement from your doctor/physician that says you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a seatbelt, you do not have to wear one under Georgia law.
Drivers of motor vehicles made before 1965 do not need to wear seatbelts because many of those cars do not have seatbelts in them at all. Prior to 1968, it was not a requirement for cars in the United States to have seatbelts. Thus, many classic cars do not have seatbelts, and their owners do not want to modify the cars to keep them in their original condition.
Drivers who are transporting someone for emergency purposes do not need to make sure their passengers are wearing seatbelts. For example, an ambulance taking a patient to a hospital does not need to secure them with seat belts. They are usually on a stretcher. The literal wording states that a vehicle “performing an emergency service” is exempt from the seatbelt requirement per O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(c)(9), so it may apply to other vehicles so long as they are performing an “emergency service.”
Speak to Our Georgia Car Accident Lawyers
If you have questions about your case, have our Roswell, GA car accident lawyers review it for free when you call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.