Michigan Safety Belt Defense
Michigan law requires the use of seatbelts and gives law enforcement the right to stop a vehicle and issue a ticket to vehicle occupants who are not buckled up. The law also can be used as a defense to accident claims that can be used to reduce the amount of compensation you can receive.
Seat Belt Rules
All vehicle occupants between the age of 8 and 15 must wear their seatbelt no matter where they are seated in the vehicle. Front seat occupants of any age must also wear their seatbelts.
Children under age 4 are required to be secured in a car seat fastened to the rear seat of the vehicle. A child aged 4 years or younger may only ride in the front seat if there are no rear seats or if the rear seats are filled by other children under the age of 4. Once the child outgrows the car seat, they are to ride in a booster seat until the age of 8 and the child is at least 4’9” tall.
When You Don’t Buckle Up
If you are injured in a car crash that was not your fault, and you have no-fault insurance, your own policy will provide you with unlimited medical benefits for treatment and therapies. You are also eligible for up to three years of other benefits including those for replacement services and lost wages. In fact, you are eligible for these benefits even if you were partially at-fault for the accident.
Even though the no-fault system significantly reduces the need for accident lawsuits, there are still some circumstances in which an accident victim or their family sues. These include –
- Accidents in which a victim is seriously injured or killed
- Accidents that occur in a different state, or involve a driver from another state
- Mini tort claims for vehicle damage
If you are the victim in a crash and need to file a lawsuit for compensation beyond your no-fault benefits, be aware that the amount of damage you may collect will be reduced based on your percentage of fault for your injuries.
For example, you aren’t paying attention to the traffic signal ahead and slam on your brakes as you realize you are about to drive through a red light. The vehicle behind you rear-ends you, and you are seriously injured. The court may decide you were 30 percent at fault for your injuries while the other driver was 70 percent at fault. Under Michigan comparative negligence laws, this means your damage award would be reduced by 30 percent.
If you are more than 50 percent at fault for your injuries, you will receive no damages. This is where the safety belt defense comes in.
If the other driver can show that your injuries would not have been as severe if you had been wearing your seatbelt at the time of the accident, your percentage of responsibility (fault) would be increased. If the other driver can show that you were 51 percent responsible for your injuries, you will receive no damages.