Aside from the well proven safety benefits of wearing a seat belt, there is another upside as well. In the unlikely event that you are involved in an auto accident that is not your fault, you will inevitably be involved in negotiations with an insurance company for compensation for your injuries. Whether you were buckled up can have a profound effect on the amount you ultimately receive. In my experience litigating cases in California, when an adverse insurance company discovered an unbelted plaintiff, the value of the case was simply cut in half. This often proved to be a significant hurdle to resolving certain cases.
The law in Oregon differs in that the court reduces the award by 5% post-verdict.
In reality, juries behind closed doors are often much harsher in minimizing damages than the law allows. Further, the vast majority of cases do not proceed to a jury verdict. Insurance representatives often discount the value of a case significantly if the injured party was not belted. These representatives are the people that typically settle cases, and their evaluation is very important in determining what many injured clients ultimately receive after a collision.
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