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What Is California’s Seatbelt Law?

All California drivers and passengers are required to wear seatbelts at all times. Seatbelts reduce the chances of severe injuries in an accident and prevent occupants from being thrown from the vehicle in a crash. What’s more, not wearing your seatbelt could negatively affect a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

The following article describes California seatbelt laws, why wearing a seatbelt is essential, and the consequences for not complying with state law. Those with car accident or seatbelt-related questions can rely on Caputo and Van Der Walde – Injury & Accident Attorneys for answers.

Photo of a Child Fixing Seat Belt

About Caputo and Van Der Walde – Injury & Accident Attorneys

Caputo and Van Der Walde – Injury & Accident Attorneys is a trusted, award-winning personal injury law firm that can assist with car accident and seatbelt-related cases. We have been recognized among the Top 100 Attorneys in California by the American Society of Legal Advocates and are AV® rated by Martindale-Hubbell® for having the highest legal abilities and ethical standards. If you have been injured in an auto accident because of someone’s negligence, contact our San Jose personal injury lawyers at (866) 545-2792

California Seatbelt Statistics

Research proves that wearing a seatbelt saves lives and reduces severe brain injuries in San Jose in car accidents. Recent state and federal seatbelt statistics prove this statement:

  • In 2017, 37,133 Americans died in auto accidents — 47% did not wear their seatbelts.
  • In 2017, seatbelts saved at least 14,955 Americans from dying in car accidents.
  • Almost 18,000 people died in California auto accidents between 2008 and 2019. Many of these deaths were related to not using seatbelts.
  • In 2017, 618 people who died in California car accidents did not wear their seatbelts.
  • In 2018, 89 lives could have been saved in California auto accidents if everyone had worn their seatbelts.
  • 93% of Californians say they always wear their seatbelts, which is better than the 87% national average. 

Other than a lower risk of severe injury or death, there are other reasons to always wear your seatbelt. If you’re in a car crash, wearing your seatbelt can affect how much compensation you receive. It’s possible that you could receive less compensation for your injuries and losses in a car crash if you did not wear a seatbelt. 

What Are Seatbelt Regulations In California?

California Vehicle Code 27315 VC requires all motor vehicle occupants eight and older to wear a seatbelt. Children younger than eight must be restrained in a booster or car seat in the vehicle’s rear. Children younger than two must be in a rear-facing car seat unless their weight is more than 40 pounds or they are more than 40 inches tall. Further, California seatbelt regulations state that anyone 16 years or older must wear a seatbelt when driving or riding as a passenger. 

Additionally, the California seatbelt law states as follows: 

  • Vehicle owners are required to maintain their seatbelts safely as well as make sure all others in their vehicle are properly wearing their seatbelts. 
  • Receiving a seatbelt ticket may result in an initial $20 fine. Furthermore, you may receive an additional $50 fine for every subsequent violation. These are merely base fines, so you could receive additional costs in the form of penalty assessments and fees.
  • There are many potential legal defenses to fight a seatbelt violation charge, so it is recommended to consult with an attorney. 
  • Ignoring a seatbelt law violation could result in a failure to appear charge — a misdemeanor. 

What Is the Seatbelt Defense?

Not wearing your seatbelt can have consequences other than tickets, fines, and accident injuries. It also could affect any personal injury claim you file. Their insurance company will investigate if the other driver caused the accident. Failing to wear your seatbelt could lead to a reduction in compensation or even a claim denial if the injuries or death are caused by the  failure to wear the seatbelt. For example, if a person is ejected from a vehicle and sustains fatal injuries due to the ejection which would not have otherwise occured if a setbelt had been worn. 

The seatbelt defense in California is an affirmative defense. This means the defendant could point to your not wearing a seatbelt as the cause of your injuries, but they must prove it. The insurance company or jury will assess various accident factors, such as how the accident happened and the injuries, to determine who was negligent. 

Having an experienced car accident attorney assist after a crash is critical. Your attorney could help you defeat the at-fault party’s affirmative defense to obtain better compensation for your injuries and other losses. 

Legal Defenses For California Seatbelt Violations

You can beat a seatbelt ticket if you raise a viable legal defense. The best chance for successfully resolving your case is with the assistance of a Caputo and Van Der Walde – Injury & Accident Attorneys attorney. The following are potential defenses for violating the state’s mandatory seatbelt law:

  • An emergency prevents you from wearing your seatbelt. 
  • You could not wear your seatbelt because of a medical condition. Driving with a doctor’s note is recommended if you have a medical condition and cannot wear your seatbelt. 
  • A police officer gave you a seatbelt ticket and did not have probable cause. State courts have ruled that law enforcement may not give a seatbelt ticket if there was no other cause for the vehicle stop. You can only get a seatbelt ticket if you are stopped for another reason. 
  • The car in which you are driving does not have a functioning seatbelt.

Whatever legal defense is used, you must provide strong evidence to prevail. For example, you could provide witness testimony, surveillance video, or photographs. 

Speak to a San Jose Personal Injury Attorney Today

Anyone in the San Jose area who has been charged with a seatbelt violation may want to fight it. You can do it independently, but it’s usually preferable to get the help of an experienced attorney

Remember, not wearing a seatbelt in an accident could lead to worse injuries. You also may qualify for less compensation in a car crash claim for not wearing a seatbelt. Therefore, you should retain an attorney to protect your right to compensation. 

Caputo and Van Der Walde – Injury & Accident Attorneys personal injury attorneys are dedicated professionals and have handled many successful settlements and lawsuits involving auto accidents and seatbelt violation-related cases. We offer a complimentary case evaluation for auto accident victims in San Jose and the surrounding community. Contact us at (866) 545-2793 for a confidential legal consultation.