Failure to Wear Seat Belt Can Affect Your Ability to Recover Compensation

The video above features NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya in a 2010 promotional spot for the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign. We began discussing the campaign on Monday and discussed how it focuses on the threat of citations for unbuckled motorists to encourage seat belt use. While we also pointed out a number of statistics that demonstrated the lives saved by wearing seat belts as well as the lives lost because motorists were unbuckled, today we wanted to focus on another reason that motorists all over Florida should make sure their seat belts are fastened every time they get into an automobile.

In the Sunshine State, not wearing a seat belt could have a significant impact on your ability to pursue a car accident claim against another motorist—even if that driver admits that he or she was at fault. In Florida, the at-fault party would be allowed to present what is called a “seat belt defense,” a tactic that many insurance companies employ to claim that the injured party would not have suffered as much harm—or maybe even any harm—had that individual been wearing a seat belt.

While the “seat belt defense” does require that the party utilizing the claim prove that there was an available and fully operational seat belt in the vehicle that the victim failed to wear, the consequences of this defense could have a substantial impact on the compensation that the injured party would receive. If the at-fault party is able to prove that there was such a seat belt available (usually done with the help of a hired expert), a jury could then reduce the injured victim’s award based on the percentage of fault that they assign to the injured party. For instance, if a jury determines that 80 percent of your injuries were the result of your not wearing a seat belt (as required by state law), that means you would only receive 20 percent of your compensation from the at-fault driver.

Again, these facts demonstrate why it is advisable for all motorists in Florida to be certain that they are wearing seat belts at all times.

Wooten Kimbrough, P.A. – Orlando personal injury attorneys



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