Injuries in a car accident can be compounded if a driver or passenger seat belt fails. That raises the issue of who pays for the injured person's treatment, because the injuries might not have been as bad -- or might not have happened -- if the seat belt had worked properly. That opens up the question of whether the person who caused the accident should pay (or rather, their insurance) for treatment, or if the manufacturer or injured person needs to pay.
Was the Other Car Moving?
Let's take a relatively clear-cut case first. Person A is sitting in their car, seat belt on, ready to drive -- but the car engine hasn't been started and the car is still parked. Person B slams into Person A's car.
This is not Person A's fault, and it likely wouldn't fall on them to pay for any of the injuries. It would be like demanding a pedestrian hit on the sidewalk pay for their own injuries because they weren't wearing some sort of harness. Now, it's possible Person B was hit previously, and that hit spun the car into Person A, so whoever hit Person B would be at fault.
Is Your State Contributory or Comparative?
Comparative and contributory negligence laws also play a role. If Person A was on the road when hit, and their seat belt wasn't completely fastened, they could be found somewhat liable for their own injuries because they didn't fasten the seat belt properly.
Was the Malfunction Due to the Injured Person or the Manufacturer?
That leads into the next question of whether the seat belt failed due to user error or because it was defective. An old seat belt that was tearing apart (and that was known to Person A to be tearing apart) is something that Person A needs to take care of. As bad as the accident may have been, if Person A knowingly wore the seat belt, they could be liable for part of their medical costs. If Person A didn't fasten the belt correctly, that could also put Person A on the hook for some of the medical costs.
However, if it's found out that the seat belt itself was defective -- unknown to Person A -- then the car manufacturer might be at risk for liability. The specific seat belt maker might also have a role.
You need a lawyer to dig through all these layers and find the true division of liability. If you have been in an accident in which someone's seat belt failed, consult an attorney immediately. Legal professionals like those at The Kaiser Law Group can offer more information.
I am a real estate attorney, and I have been helping clients buy and sell property for many years. Some clients do not realize their legal obligations and options when it comes to purchasing or selling a house or land. I hope that this blog will be a way for people to get information about legal issues in real estate and what they need to know when doing business. Buying and selling property can be complicated, and all parties involved have legal obligations. Know what is expected of you, and you will be able to get the best out of your real estate transactions.