You know you're supposed to "buckle up" when you get in the car -- even for a short drive. If you happen to get into a car accident, your seat belt can save you from serious injury. It can also save you from unnecessary complications when you make a claim for compensation when the other driver is at fault for the accident.
Numerous states, including Ohio, allow defendants in a car accident claim to assert a positive defense to the issue of liability for a car accident victim's injuries. The "seat belt defense" essentially states that an injury victim would have either not been injured at all or would have suffered less serious injuries if he or she had been properly restrained by a seat belt at the time of the accident.
Because Ohio follows the rule of comparative negligence, jurors have to decide if you are partially responsible for your own injuries. If you are, you have to share the cost of those injuries with the defendant. For example, imagine that the total cost of your injuries -- including hospital care, pain and suffering, lost wages and other medical expenses -- adds up to $100,000. If the jury finds you to be 10% at fault and the other driver 90% at fault, then you would only receive $90,000 in compensation.
However, the law has another catch: If you're found to be 50% or more responsible for your own injuries, you can't collect anything for your losses. If your injuries were primarily related to being thrown against the dashboard or steering wheel, you might have a very difficult time collecting on a claim for damages if you weren't wearing your seat belt.
No matter what the circumstances, you should always consider getting some experienced legal advice following a car accident with a negligent driver. Often, you don't really know your options until you ask.