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Can I Seek Compensation If I Wasn’t Wearing My Seatbelt During The Accident?

Today, most people wear their seatbelts on a consistent basis- in fact, according to the latest reports, only around 9.2% of Floridians don’t. While this is an impressive amount of drivers and passengers who drive safely with their seatbelts, some questions arise for the 9.2% of inconsistent seat belt wearers. What happens if you’re not wearing your seatbelt when you get into an accident? Does it mean you forfeit all right to compensation and have to pay for all your injuries yourself? The answer is generally yes- but if the accident that caused your injuries or property damage was due to somebody else’s negligence, there may still be a chance of recovering a certain amount of compensation. This article discusses modified comparative negligence, seatbelt laws, and what to do if you were injured in a car accident while not wearing your seatbelt.

How Florida Seat Belt Laws Impact Car Accident Compensation

First, we’re going to briefly break down how Florida seat belt laws work. The Florida Safety Belt Law, or Florida Statute 316.614, requires all a vehicle’s front-seat occupants as well as any passengers under 18 (regardless of where they sit) to wear a seatbelt or be properly restrained in a child seat. A nonmoving traffic violation may be issued when these regulations are broken, which comes with penalties and fines. 

Florida’s Modified Comparative Negligence System

Florida recently passed tort reforms that changed the state’s comparative negligence rules in personal injury cases from pure comparative negligence to modified comparative negligence. This means that the plaintiff (the party who is filing the case against the defendant) must be less than 51% responsible for the accident that caused their injury in order to sue for damages. If they are more than 51% at fault, they cannot sue. If the plaintiff is less than 51% at fault, but still partially at fault, the damages that the judge or jury awards them if they win is reduced according to their percentage of the blame in a process referred to as contributory negligence.

Under contributory negligence, if you don’t wear a seatbelt and get into an accident, but the accident was due to the other driver’s negligence, then the court may find you 40% at fault for your injuries since you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, and the other driver to be 60% at fault because they were texting while driving at the time of the wreck. Since your share of fault is under 51%, you can still file a lawsuit. If you win $100,000 for medical expenses from your lawsuit, the judge then subtracts the percentage of fault you were deemed responsible for (30%), and you end up with $60,000. Victims are only able to receive full compensation for injuries incurred in an accident if they were found to be completely not at fault, so if you were not wearing a seatbelt when you got into an accident, you will not receive the full compensation in the case that you do sue and win. 

Contact Us Today

Even if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt during a car accident, you may still be entitled to a certain amount of compensation if the accident was caused by another party’s negligence. Call Asnis Srebnick & Kaufman to learn more about your legal rights and consult with a top Florida car accident attorney today.