In Florida, all motor vehicle drivers and front seat passengers are required to wear seatbelts. You can be ticketed for failing to do so, but of course safety is the primary reason to buckle up. For those who need more convincing, think about this: if you get hurt in an auto accident and you aren’t buckled up, the amount of compensation you recover could be reduced.
You may wonder if not wearing your seatbelt will completely bar you from recovering compensation for your injuries. The answer is no. In the first place, Florida’s no-fault insurance system allows you to file a claim with your own carrier for medical expenses and lost wages, up to the limits of your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. If you have suffered more serious injuries, you can bring a lawsuit against another driver who was at least partially responsible for the crash. But failure to wear a seatbelt will affect the amount of money your case will be worth.
Under Florida’s Safety Belt Law, failure to wear a seatbelt can be considered as evidence of comparative negligence in a personal injury case. In other words, if your lack of a seatbelt caused or worsened your injuries, the amount of compensation you receive can be reduced proportionately.
For example, let’s say you were in a car accident that was entirely the other driver’s fault. You file a personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer proves that you sustained $100,000 in damages. But the defense establishes that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt and that your injuries were 20 percent worse as a result. Your $100,000 award will be reduced by 20 percent, so you walk away with only $80,000.
This defense tactic is known as “the seatbelt defense” in Florida. To successfully mount this defense, the defendant will need to show three elements:
- The injured person had a seatbelt available and failed to use it
- The failure to use a seatbelt was unreasonable under the circumstances
- The failure caused or significantly contributed to the injuries
As the injured person, you will want to challenge assertion of the seatbelt defense, because often the percentage of negligence that the defense tries to assign to the injured person is far too great. It takes an experienced, skilled plaintiff’s lawyer to assemble evidence showing that other factors had greater bearing on the injuries suffered.
The Central Florida personal injury lawyers at Largey Law Firm handle all types of auto accident claims and have successfully represented injured clients who weren’t wearing seatbelts at the time of a crash. We’ll do everything we can to secure maximum compensation on your behalf. To get started, contact us online to arrange a free initial consultation at our offices in Clermont, Tavares and Inverness. Virtual appointments are also available.