Can I Still Recover Damages After a Car Crash if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

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Can I Still Recover Damages After a Car Crash if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

woman putting on seat belt

Yes, you can still recover damages if you weren’t wearing a seat belt at the time of your accident. However, your compensation may be significantly reduced if the insurance company or their lawyers can prove your injuries could have been prevented or lessened had you been wearing a seat belt.

Federal law requires all auto manufacturers to equip their cars, trucks and SUVs with seat belts. They play a key role in preventing not only injuries but also crippling disabilities and deaths.

Unfortunately, despite being a violation of traffic laws, many people risk their safety by not wearing a seat belt. Legal problems can arise when get injured on the road because of another driver’s negligence but you’re not buckled up.

If your case does go to trial, it will be up to a judge or jury to determine not only who was at fault but whether:

  1. Your injuries would have occurred had you been wearing a seat belt
  2. If wearing a seat belt would have lessened the severity of those injuries

Instead of needing to deliberate a single question, there are now several issues that must be decided, and the answers could have a dramatic impact on your eventual compensation.

Buckle up, Floridians – It’s the Law

Under Florida statues, drivers and all passengers, including minors, are required to wear a seat belt. If you’re riding in a car in Florida without being strapped in, you can be pulled over and fined for failing to adhere to the law. Children under 12 should be in rear seats, since deployed air bags can injure them.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) makes it optional to wear seat belts under certain circumstances, like when driving a bus, operating farm equipment or making home deliveries.

Even if you’re driving in a professional capacity and the law doesn’t require you to buckle up, it’s still recommended because failing to do so could affect an accident claim. During a civil case or negotiations with the insurance companies, the legality of you failing to wear a seat belt won’t be argued – the only point of contention will be what affect your failure to wear a seat belt had on your injuries

This is because seat belts literally save lives by keeping drivers and passengers from being thrown out of a vehicle or from being thrown into each other, the windshield, dashboard or steering wheel. Seat belts also keep the driver in a seated position behind the wheel, increasing their chance of being able to successfully brake or perform evasive maneuvers during an accident.

Will Not Wearing a Seat belt Impact Your Injury Claim?

If you were injured in an accident caused by another driver who missed a stop sign, made an unprotected left turn in front of you or drove while intoxicated, they will likely be found to be responsible – regardless of whether or not you were wearing a seat belt. Unfortunately, despite their negligence, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may still try to blame you for your injuries if they can prove your injuries could have been prevented by wearing a seat belt.

The amount of compensation you are entitled to could be greatly reduced if it’s proven you are partially responsible for the injuries you have suffered.

Florida Contributory Fault Statutes

The Florida contributory fault statutes allow courts to assign a percentage of blame to injured people even if they aren’t at fault for the accident. Let’s say you were hit by a drunk driver and suffered injuries to your lower back. Your medical expenses were $80,000. The court determines your injuries would have been less severe had you been wearing your seat belt. They decide you are 30 percent responsible for your own injuries. In that case you’d only receive $56,000 in compensation (30 percent, or $24,000, will be deducted from your compensation).

Verdicts reduced by contributory fault can significantly impact your life as you continue to deal with the consequences of your injuries, like medical bills, lost wages, decreased quality of life and more.

Should You Call a Personal Injury Attorney Experienced with Auto Accidents?

Although seat belts can help keep you safe in many car wrecks, they can’t prevent every car accident or truck accident injury, including serious head, spine or pelvic injuries. If you’ve been a victim of an auto accident and have suffered serious injuries, you are entitled to compensation.

Insurance companies don’t like parting with their money, which is why they frequently attempt to undervalue or deny car accident injury claims. If you’re struggling to get the money you’re owed, or the insurance company is suggesting you were at fault for your own injuries, it may be in your best interest to speak with a car accident lawyer.