Florida Statute 316.614 requires that all drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt when driving in a motor vehicle, except those who have a certified condition that prevents them from wearing a safety belt. This law has been put in place to prevent people from being ejected from the vehicle in the event of a car accident and to reduce the severity of injuries that people suffer.
However, sometimes due to human error or otherwise, drivers and passengers fail to wear seat belts, and in some cases, end up in a car accident. If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of your car accident, you should still be entitled to recover compensation for any injuries you have suffered. The amount of compensation you can recover in a car accident claim may be reduced due to comparative negligence laws, but an experienced lawyer can help ensure that you are not left out of pocket due to the mistake of not wearing a seat belt.
Here at The Law Place, we have dealt with many car accidents over our 75 years of practice. We’ve gotten clients the compensation they’re entitled to even when they were not wearing seat belts at the time the accident occurred. Our law firm can offer you legal advice in our free case evaluation, and you can figure out how much compensation you may be entitled to. We have built up a strong attorney-client relationship through our dedication and hard work, and we want to help you also.
How Do I Claim Compensation for Car Accident Injuries?
In order to recover compensation for any car accident in Florida, you must file an insurance claim with both your own insurance company and the insurance of the other party involved. Florida’s no-fault laws provide that all drivers are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of at least $10,000 in addition to $10,000 in property damage coverage.
These laws also provide that insurance companies must pay out their clients 80% of compensation for personal injuries, including for medical bills or related damages, regardless of whether they were at fault for the accident. So, even if you or another person in your vehicle was not wearing a seat belt at the time the accident happened, your own insurance company must pay you out damages up to the limits of your own policy.
In the unfortunate situation that you have only taken out the minimum amount of compensation required by law, and this is not enough to cover your own damages, you will have to file a claim against the insurance company of the other party involved or the negligent party themselves. This is when not wearing a seat belt can begin to impact your claim, as Florida’s comparative negligence laws may come into place.
Comparative Negligence Laws in Florida
When filing a personal injury claim against a negligent driver in a car accident, it is necessary to prove that the driver caused the accident and that their negligence resulted in you suffering injuries. In many cases, this can be proved by showing that the other driver violated traffic laws, acted recklessly by breaking the posted speed limit, or driving under the influence (DUI), or failed to take adequate care to prevent an accident from happening.
If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time the accident occurred, it doesn’t negate the fact that the other driver caused the accident to happen. However, their lawyer and the insurance company may try to use the ‘seat belt defense’ to reduce the amount of compensation you receive and find you partially liable. Essentially, under Florida statutes on comparative fault, the amount of compensation you receive can be reduced if you were found to be partially at fault for the accident or if your negligence resulted in you suffering more serious injuries.
Not wearing a seat belt makes it more likely for you to sustain serious injuries than if you were safely fastened at the time of a car accident. As such, when the other driver is arguing their case, their insurance office or lawyer can use the seat belt defense and say that your injuries were made, for example, 20% more serious than they would have been if you were wearing a seat belt. This can result in your original settlement amount then being reduced by 20%.
Florida does not follow a contributory negligence system anymore, meaning that failure to wear your seat belt will not result in your claim being completely barred. A car accidents attorney can help ensure that you recover maximum compensation for your car crash and that the comparative fault seatbelt defense doesn’t reduce your settlement amount substantially.
Can Passengers Not Wearing Seat Belts File a Car Accident Claim?
Injury victims who were passengers can also recover damages if they were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the car crash. In this scenario, a lawyer can argue that you sustained injuries not only because the at-fault driver drove recklessly but also because the front seat driver asked you to remain unbuckled for the journey.
This can result in a passenger recovering the remainder of their damages from the insurance company of the driver of the vehicle they were in, reduced by any seatbelt defense deductions, and the majority from the other driver. Trying to make this type of argument without legal representation can be complex and difficult, however, so we recommend calling for a free consultation with a lawyer from our firm to discuss your options.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
Not wearing a seatbelt in the event of a crash can significantly complicate the process of recovering damages for your injuries, particularly if the other driver is using the seat belt defense against you. A lawyer can help protect your legal rights and ensure that there aren’t any legal ramifications for you by arguing the following:
- Not wearing a seatbelt didn’t cause the accident or make your injury worse – There is no definite way of showing that wearing a seatbelt would have lessened the harm of the injured driver.
- Wearing a seatbelt would not have protected you – If the injured person is shorter or heavier than an average person, it can be argued that wearing a seatbelt wouldn’t have protected you from an injury.
An insurance company may use the seat belt defense to reduce the number of damages you are awarded, or they may try to deny your claim outright. An attorney can help fight against the insurance office of the at-fault driver to ensure that you get justice for your injuries and that a failure to wear your seat belt doesn’t impact your claim.
Call The Law Place Today
If you or a family member has sustained injuries in a car crash whilst not wearing your seat belt, you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Trying to recover maximum compensation in these cases can be difficult, and you may be found partially at fault for your injuries due to the seatbelt defense of the other party.
Here at The Law Place, we can help ensure that your case is treated fairly and that you get the money you are owed for any injury you’ve sustained in a car crash. Our firm has over 75 years of experience dealing with personal injury cases, and we have helped many clients not wearing seatbelts recover the maximum amount of compensation. We offer a free consultation where you can discuss your case with an experienced lawyer with no strings attached.
Call us today to schedule your free consultation at (941) 444-4444. Our phone lines are always open.