If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of a car accident, you may still have the right to recover compensation for the damages you sustained. However, the other party’s insurance company might try to minimize the amount of your car accident settlement by claiming that you suffered more severe injuries due to your failure to wear a seat belt.
We recommend that you consult with an experienced car accident lawyer about your rights to seek compensation. At Gordon & Partners, our team can discuss the legal options available to you and determine whether you have a valid claim. We may be able to help fight for maximum compensation.
Florida’s Seat Belt Law
Florida law requires that the driver, all front seat passengers and all minor passengers use a seat belt at all times when in a motor vehicle. However, certain individuals are exempt:
- Bus passengers
- Newspaper deliverers
- Farm equipment operators
- Trash or recycle service workers
- Letter carriers
Those with medical conditions that would be aggravated by wearing a seat belt are also exempt.
Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases
You may have a legal right to pursue compensation for your injuries even if you did not wear a seat belt at the time of the collision as long as the other driver is liable for the car accident.
However, since Florida uses a comparative fault statute for assigning blame or negligence, not wearing a seat belt when legally required to do so may reduce the amount you can collect in a settlement. This means the reward amount will be reduced by your percentage of fault for your injuries and the accident.
For instance, if the victim incurred $100,000 of damages and the jury found the victim 20 percent responsible for damages because he or she was not wearing a seat belt, the potential maximum award would be reduced to $80,000 since the victim was responsible for $20,000 of damages.
Failure to Wear a Seat Belt as a Driver
Florida law states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle without using a seat belt. Car accident claims are often based on one or more drivers acting in a negligent or reckless manner, such as:
- Texting while driving
- Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Running a red light
- Following too closely
- Not obeying traffic laws
The party who caused the accident may try to claim that your injures could have been prevented or minimized had you worn a seat belt. However, there are several accidents that can occur even if a person is wearing a seat belt. Afterall, wearing a seat belt generally will not prevent an accident; it may just help make the injury not be as bad.
Since the severity of an injury depends on many factors, including whether or not you were wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, speed, velocity of impact and point of impact. To achieve the maximum amount of compensation available for your case, you may need a medical expert to testify that you would have been injured even if you were wearing a seat belt.
Failure to Wear a Seat Belt as a Passenger
Florida law requires that all front seat passengers wear a seat belt. Additionally, all minor passengers should be buckled whether they are in the front or back seat. If you are injured as a passenger in the vehicle, you may have a stronger argument to receive full compensation for your injuries. For instance, you may argue that it is the driver’s duty to insist you buckle up before putting the vehicle in motion.
Additionally, you may be able to make other arguments. For instance, you may be able to argue that a seat belt would not have been effective to protect you from injury. This may be a particularly useful argument if you are much taller, shorter or larger than the average passenger. Another argument is that not wearing a seat belt did not contribute to the cause of your accident.
Discuss Your Rights with a Licensed Attorney
Have you been injured in a car accident? It is in your best interest to contact a licensed attorney as soon as possible. The claims process can be complicated and overwhelming to handle alone.
The West Palm Beach car accident lawyers at our firm have decades of experience handling the other party’s attempts to shift liability and may be able to validate your claim to help minimize any degree of negligence on your part. Let us evaluate your situation during a free consultation. You do not have to pay us for our legal services unless we recover compensation on your behalf.
Contact our office today by calling 1 (855) 722-2552.