Can I Recover for My Injuries if I was Not Wearing a Seatbelt?
Many people believe that if they’re injured in a car crash and they were not wearing their seatbelt, they will be unable to recover for their injuries. While this is not entirely true, the failure to wear a seatbelt is a defense that the insurance company can (and often does) raise and it can affect the amount of damages you may ultimately be able to recover in your case.
To prevail on a defense for failing to wear a seatbelt, the insurance company must prove the following three elements:
That the plaintiff failed to use an available and operational seatbelt;
That the plaintiff’s failure to use the seatbelt was unreasonable under the circumstances; and
That the plaintiff’s failure to use the seatbelt caused or contributed substantially to the plaintiff’s injuries.
Smith v. Butterick, 769 So. 2d 1056, 1058-59 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). If the insurance company is able to prove each of these elements, then the issue of the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt can be considered by the jury when determining comparative fault.
What Is Comparative Fault?
We’ve previously written about the legal concept of comparative fault, but it’s simply when a jury is permitted to consider not only the fault of the defendant, but also that of the plaintiff. In considering this, if a jury decides that the plaintiff’s conduct also caused or contributed to the accident or to the plaintiff’s injuries, they are permitted to assign a percentage of fault to the plaintiff which will then work to reduce the amount the plaintiff can ultimately recover. In Florida, the concept of comparative fault is found in Florida Statute § 768.81, which provides that the percentage of plaintiff’s damages attributable to the plaintiff’s negligent conduct should be used to reduce the damages the plaintiff can recover.
When dealing with the seatbelt defense – if applicable – a jury is permitted to consider the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt when calculating the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff. Theoretically, a jury could decide that the plaintiff is 100% at fault for causing his/her own injuries by failing to wear a seatbelt. Realistically, however, if the other driver had liability for the crash, a jury will likely split fault by some percentage provided that it determines that the failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to the cause of injury.
Trust SouthShore Injury Attorneys With Your Personal Injury Claim
The attorneys at SouthShore Injury Attorneys are experienced in representing personal injury cases throughout the State of Florida. If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact SouthShore Injury Attorneys at (813) 419-3866 for a free consultation.
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