The Role Seat Belt Laws Play in Auto Accident Cases
One of the leading causes of death for people in the United States under 40 years old are auto accidents. Over half of those people were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
Florida Seat Belt Law
In Florida, all drivers must wear a seat belt while operating a vehicle. In addition to the driver, all passengers in the vehicle who are sitting in the front seat must also wear their safety belts. Passengers under the age of eighteen sitting in the backseat must wear one as well. All children under three years old need to be seated in a federally approved restraint seat.
There are primary belt laws in Florida that allow a police officer to stop a vehicle and ticket the motorist if someone fails to put on their seat belt. The average fine for a first offense is around $30 for an adult and $60 for a child 5 and younger.
Importance of Seat Belts
Seat belts have been found to save lives. If it is worn correctly each time you are in the vehicle, the seat belt can keep you from getting ejected from the vehicle, keeps you from being thrown against the other passengers in the vehicle or into the steering wheel or windshield, and if you are driver, it can help keep you behind the wheel where you can maintain control over the vehicle.
The seat belt should be worn around the hips and across the chest. If it is tucked behind you rather than being properly put on, then it won't help you. Remember, airbags are not a substitute for seat belts while you are in a vehicle.
Correlation Between Seat Belts and Your Claim
If a negligent driver causes injuries in an accident, then they are liable under Florida statutes for those injuries. Florida also uses the pure comparative negligence doctrine as well for assigning liability. This means that if you fail to wear a seat belt, it may actually reduce the amount of compensation you may collect in a settlement from the auto accident.
Understanding Comparative Negligence Statutes
This is often also referred to as negligent fault. Let's say, for example, a driver was going over the posted speed limit or they drove recklessly. Due to this behavior, they collided with your vehicle. This means that the reckless driver's negligence makes them liable for any injuries you sustain in that auto collision.
However, if you failed to have your seat belt on during the time of the accident, then you likely suffered more injury than you would have had you been wearing it. So, if the insurance company or lawyer determines that your injuries were a certain percentage worse because you didn't wear your seat belt, then you will legally have to assume that percentage of the blame for those injuries. This is also known as Florida's Seat Belt Defense.
So, if your insurance claim came out to approximately $100,000 which includes lost wages and medical care and it was found that you didn't have on your seat belt, then you could lose that 15 percent under this defense which would bring you down to receiving only 85 percent of the total compensation. The negligent driver will only have to pay you $85,000 in damages in the example we have given above.
If you have sustained injuries as the result of an auto accident and you weren't wearing a seat belt, then you may want to consult with a personal injury attorney about your case.