Can You Recover Damages if You Were Not Wearing a Seat Belt During a Car Accident?
Does the fact that you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of an auto accident mean that you cannot seek compensation for your injury? Do insurance companies in Florida deny personal injury claims if the injured party was not wearing a seat belt during a car crash?
Not Wearing a Seat Belt During an Auto Accident
Recently, a teenager who was not wearing a seat belt was killed in a one-vehicle accident in Hillsborough County. The accident occurred when a 16-year-old driver attempted to pass another car and lost control of his vehicle. As a result, the pickup truck left the roadway and overturned.
A 16-year-old female passenger, who was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene, according to WFLA. The driver and another passenger were both wearing seat belts and survived the crash.
The Seat Belt Defense in Florida
In Florida, you have the right to obtain compensation from the at-fault party even if you were not buckled up at the time of the collision. However, since Florida follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence, the insurance company might attempt to undervalue or deny your claim, arguing that your failure to wear a seat belt caused or aggravated your injury. This is known as the seat belt defense.
Typically, however, the seat belt defense cannot be used to deny coverage altogether. Instead, insurers can use the defense to reduce the injured party’s settlement by the percentage they contributed to their injury.
Can You Obtain Compensation if You Were Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
Under Florida law, all drivers and front-seat passengers are required to wear seat belts while on the road. Also, the law requires all minors under the age of 18 to use safety restraints regardless of whether they are seated in the front or back seat.
If you can prove that the driver of the vehicle in which you were a passenger or another driver was liable for the accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your personal injury even if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision.
However, your compensation award can be reduced by the percentage of your own fault for your injury. Florida uses the doctrine of pure comparative negligence when assigning liability. In other words, your failure to wear a seat belt at the time of a crash can reduce the total award amount.
In many car crashes in which someone sustains an injury, the injured party’s failure to wear a seat belt at the time of the car accident can increase the severity of injuries. Thus, if the insurance company determines that your failure to wear a seat belt made your injury 30% worse than it would have been, your recoverable damages will be reduced by 30%.
For example, if your personal injury attorney determined the total settlement amount to be $200,000, you can only collect 70% of the total award, which is $200,000 – 30% ($60,000) = $140,000.
If the insurance company refuses to cover your damages and losses or denies your claim because you were not wearing a seat belt, do not hesitate to contact a skilled personal injury attorney in Florida. Speak with our experienced Lakeland auto accident attorneys at The Turnbull Firm to review your situation. Call at 863-324-3500 to get a case review.