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Can I Recover Compensation if I’m Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

Scott McCullough April 1, 2020

A car accident is a traumatic experience for anyone to go through. Depending on the seriousness of your injuries, you might be in recovery for months. The question that many ask after a car accident is if they can recover compensation to pay for medical costs and wages lost while healing. If the carelessness of another driver caused the accident, you should file a claim. Even if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the car accident, you still have the right to recover compensation from the driver who was at fault for your injuries.

However, Florida is a comparative negligence state. That means if you were partially at fault for causing the accident, then any amount of recovered compensation you might receive is reduced by the percentage of responsibility that you’re liable for. That doesn’t mean you’ll receive nothing in payment for your injuries. Instead, the settlement amount will be reduced by the percentage to which you contributed to the accident.

What Are Seat Belt Laws in Florida?

In Florida, all drivers and front-seat passengers must wear a seat belt when they’re on the road. Having an airbag in your front passenger’s seat does not cancel out this law. Other seat belt laws in Florida include:

  • Passengers under the age of 18 must always wear a seat belt, even when they’re in the back seat.

  • All children under age four or weighing less than 40 pounds must sit in a children’s car seat.

  • Seat belt laws are applicable for any vehicle, including vans, pickup, trucks, and cars.

These laws were created to keep everyone on the road safer and to reduce the severity of injuries when accidents do occur. As long as the other driver was liable, it’s your legal right to pursue and collect financial compensation for your injuries, whether or not you were wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

How Does Florida’s Comparative Fault Law Work in An Injury Claim?

While the at-fault driver (or their insurance company) is responsible for the cost of injuries that resulted from the accident, your failure to wear a seat belt will lessen the percentage you can collect in compensation. That is because of Florida’s Fault Statute, which states the following:

In a negligence action, contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.

To better understand how Florida’s comparative fault works in an injury claim, consider this: If you were driving to work and a car speeding well past the legal speed limit lost control and crashed into your vehicle, that driver’s carelessness makes them responsible for your injuries.

If you weren’t wearing a seat belt, your injuries are likely worse than what they would have been if you had been wearing one. If the judge or jury determines that your injuries were 20% worse because you failed to wear a seat belt, then the resulting settlement would be reduced by 20%, and the at-fault driver would be responsible for 80%.

What Happens if I’m Not Wearing a Seat Belt as A Passenger in A Car Accident?

If you were a passenger who was not wearing a seat belt in a car accident, the situation changes a bit. In this scenario, your attorney can claim that the driver should have required you to buckle up before driving off. So, if a judge deems that the at-fault driver is 80% responsible for injuries that resulted from the accident, the other driver may be liable for the 20% of the settlement that was reduced by the comparative fault law.

These cases can become extremely complicated. Whether you’re a driver or passenger involved in a car accident, it’s critical to have a knowledgeable and trusted car accident lawyer on your side. Moving forward in an injury claim without a lawyer can significantly reduce your ability to collect a fair settlement.

How a Skilled Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Car accident injury claims involving drivers without seat belts are notably involved due to the comparative fault laws surrounding them and the at-fault driver’s general unwillingness to agree. The process can grow to become extremely overwhelming, especially for someone who’s in recovery trying to heal from injuries. That’s why car accident victims in South Florida turn to the Law Offices of McCullough and Leboff, PA. Our attorneys are solely focused on injury cases and have a dedicated team with knowledge and experience to help car accident victims.

The attorneys at McCullough and Leboff, PA, understand that you need to recover from your injuries and your financial hardships that the accident caused without facing additional troubles. Please call and speak with one of our car accident attorneys to get the relief that you need. To schedule your free consultation, complete an online contact form, or call today.