Seat Belt: Can I Recover If I Was Not Wearing a Safety Belt?

seat belt
Driver sits in the car and fastens his seat belt


California law allows an injured person in a car accident to receive compensation even if she or he was not wearing a safety belt. This article addresses the seat belt law and the recovery that is allowed by a person not wearing a seat belt.


California’s seat belt law says that no one can drive a car unless the driver and all passengers are wearing a safety belt. The rule applies to both front seat and back seat passengers.

Children who are under the age of two must be in a rear-facing car seat in the back.

Children who are older than two years of age but under 4’9″ tall, must be in a forward-facing car seat in the back.

A child has outgrown a car seat and is ready for a booster seat when he or she typically weighs between 40-65 pounds. You should read the owner’s manual to determine weight limits.

Booster seats must are to be used until the child is at least 4’9″ tall and between the age of 8-12.


Under California law, an adult who does not wear a safety belt can be found negligent. Damages awarded will be reduced by the adult’s percentage of fault as determined by a judge or jury. For example, Driver “A” runs a red light and causes an accident with Driver “B.” Passenger “1” was not wearing a seat belt in Driver B’s car. A jury could decide that Driver “A” was 80% at fault for causing the accident and that Passenger “1” was 20% at fault for not wearing a safety restraint. Thus, an award of $100,000.00 to Passenger “1”, would be reduced by 20%.

Also, the insurance company typically tries to show that the injuries from not wearing a safety belt were much more severe than had a belt been worn. As an example, in a front-end car accident, an un-belted passenger may be thrown into the windshield and suffer a severe brain injury. The company will argue that had the person been wearing a belt, only a neck sprain would have occurred. The company will only pay for the neck sprain.


A person who elects not to use a seat belt can still recover damages if injured. The insurance company will use every trick to avoid paying damages. We know those tricks. Schedule a free consultation.