In the unfortunate event of a car accident, the decision to wear a seatbelt can have lasting consequences. Seatbelts and airbags can drastically impact the outcome of a crash, influencing both the severity of injuries and the legal ramifications afterward.
Will not wearing a seatbelt hurt your case? What happens if an airbag malfunctions? A Macon car accident lawyer answers these questions and more
Seatbelts: Your First Line of Defense
Georgia law is clear: seat belts are mandatory for all occupants of a moving vehicle, regardless of age or seating position. This requirement is outlined in O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1, which states that “Every driver and passenger in a motor vehicle operated on the roads and highways of this state shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt.”
The effectiveness of seatbelts is undeniable. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal that seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal injury by:
- 45% for drivers and passengers in frontal crashes.
- 60% for pickup truck drivers and passengers.
- 60% in rollover crashes.
Georgia takes seatbelt violations seriously. Failure to comply with the law can result in:
- Fines of up to $25
- Points on your driving record
- Increased insurance premiums
Airbags: Enhanced Protection
Airbags provide an additional layer of safety in modern vehicles. These inflatable cushions deploy milliseconds before impact, cushioning occupants and minimizing head, neck, and chest injuries. While not mandatory by law in Georgia, airbags are present in all new passenger vehicles and offer significant protection when working in conjunction with seatbelts.
Seatbelts and Airbags Save Lives
The combined use of seatbelts and airbags is a powerful force in reducing the severity of accidents and saving lives. Studies have shown that:
- Seatbelts and airbags together can reduce the risk of death by up to 80% in frontal crashes.
- Airbags alone can reduce the risk of death by 30% for drivers and front-seat passengers.
These statistics highlight the importance of both safety features in protecting occupants and minimizing the impact of accidents.
Legal Implications: Beyond Penalties
Understanding the legal implications of seatbelt and airbag use extends beyond potential fines. Georgia courts recognize the importance of these safety features and consider their use when evaluating personal injury claims arising from car accidents.
Not Wearing a Seatbelt and Shared Fault
Not wearing a seatbelt can impact your ability to recover damages in a lawsuit. The concept of “comparative fault” allows the court to assign a percentage of blame to each party involved in the accident.
If you were not wearing a seatbelt and your injuries were partially caused by that decision, your compensation may be reduced accordingly.
Airbag Malfunctions and Product Liability
If you suffer injuries due to a malfunctioning airbag, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer. This legal avenue allows you to seek compensation for your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated 12 million vehicles for airbag malfunctions due to a faulty deployment.
In Georgia, you usually have two years to file a lawsuit if you are injured by a defective product. The clock begins ticking when you learn your injuries were caused by the defective product. Georgia law also sets a time limit of 10 years from when the product was sold.
Making the Right Choice: Buckle Up
The evidence is clear: seatbelts and airbags save lives. By making the conscious decision to buckle up, you are taking significant steps to protect yourself and your loved ones on the road. Not only are you complying with the law, but you are also minimizing the potential for serious injuries and legal complications in the unfortunate event of an accident.
Contact Bethune Law Firm at 1800-INJURED for a free consultation and legal assistance after a car accident in Macon, Atlanta, or the surrounding areas.