Seatbelts have been standard equipment in American cars since the 1960s. Since then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) credits them with saving over 350,000 lives. Seatbelts make it much less likely that you will be ejected from a car during a crash and help your body decelerate with the vehicle instead of continuing your forward motion until you hit the steering wheel or dashboard. It has been shown through testing that seatbelts can prevent many serious injuries.
But what if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident? Some people forget to put a seatbelt on or neglect it because they only planned on a short drive. While your failure to wear a seatbelt can have an impact on your claim, it does not necessarily mean that you will be unable to recover damages.
What Does Florida Law Say About Wearing a Seatbelt?
Under Florida statutes, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle or be a passenger without being restrained by a safety belt at all times. There are limited exceptions for mail carriers, garbage truck drivers, school bus passengers, and others who are precluded from wearing seatbelts due to the nature of their vehicle or job. However, these do not apply in most car accident situations. Basically, if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident, you were breaking the law.
If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt, Can I Still File a Claim?
Even though not wearing a seatbelt is against Florida law, that does not mean you would be unable to file a claim. Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. Under pure comparative negligence, even if you are partially to blame for an accident, you are still eligible to receive some compensation. The amount of your fault will just reduce that compensation. For example, if you were hurt in an accident caused by another driver, but it is determined that your failure to wear a seatbelt made your injury 30% worse, then you would still be eligible to recover 70% of the damages you experienced from the crash.
Can a Lawyer Help Me if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt During My Accident?
A skilled personal injury lawyer can assist you with your case even if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of your crash. The critical thing to remember is that your lack of a seatbelt did not cause the accident. The at-fault driver caused the accident.
The defendant will likely try to use the “seatbelt defense” to reduce the amount of their liability. It is then incumbent upon the at-fault driver and their insurance to prove that there is a direct link between your non-use of a seatbelt and your injuries from the crash, which involves a careful study of your injuries and opinions from medical professionals. Even if they manage to prove causation, it does not invalidate your case against the at-fault driver. It will likely just reduce the amount you are eligible to recover. A knowledgeable attorney will assist you in getting the maximum possible compensation for your injuries, no matter the circumstances of your accident. To discuss your unique case with an attorney, call: 305-692-0125