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Report: failure to wear seatbelt contributing to more traffic fatalities

The rate of fatal auto accidents is obviously an important barometer of the status of highway safety in any state. Here in Colorado, there had happily been a decline in fatal motor vehicle accidents from 2007 to 2012. That downward trend, however, has changed.

According to a recent report by the Colorado Department of Transportation, the number of fatal crashes in 2013 rose by 1.9 percent. Several interesting points were included in the report, one being that pedestrian safety and marijuana impairment are issues that need to be better addressed. 

One good bit of news mentioned in the report is that fatalities connected to speeding and the use of alcohol improved over the five year period. Interestingly, though, there are apparently more drivers dying due to failure to wear a seatbelt, that number having increased 5.4 percent between 2009 and 2013.

Using a seat belt is obviously important to ensure one’s own safety in the event of a crash. An interesting question that can come up in car accident litigation, though, is whether failure to wear a seat belt can result in a decrease of damages for the accident victim. In Colorado, it has been established that juries may reduce an accident victim’s damages award in cases where the victim’s failure to wear a seat belt contributed to his or her injuries. That being said, awards for physical disfigurement and impairment may not be subjected to mitigation under the so-called seatbelt defense.  

Because it is so important to maximize damages in car accident cases, accident victims should always work with an experienced attorney to ensure they build the best case possible, appropriately addressing—if necessary—the issue of mitigation of damages.

Source: The Coloradan, “Deaths in car accidents increase in Colorado,” Feb. 10, 2015. 

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