It is not breaking news that wearing a seatbelt is one of the top ways to protect your safety in an auto accident, and you put your life at risk if you do not buckle up. Plus, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles points out that it is against the law if you refuse to wear one under designated circumstances: You can be pulled over for a primary violation and receive a ticket, as the driver or passenger. What you may not know is that not buckling your seatbelt can actually impact your rights if you were injured in collision. An experienced car accidents lawyer can explain in more detail, but you should be aware of the implications of the “seatbelt defense” in Florida.
Default Rule in Negligence Cases: The vast majority of personal injury cases – including auto accidents – are based on the legal concept of negligence. You may be entitled to recover compensation if you can prove these four essential elements:
- The other driver had a duty to drive safely;
- He or she breached this duty by driving carelessly or recklessly;
- The breach led to the collision in which you were injured; and,
- You suffered losses because of your injuries.
Florida’s Law on Comparative Negligence: While most of the focus in an auto crash is based upon the conduct of the negligent driver, your own acts may also be under scrutiny. Florida follows a rule called “comparative” negligence, which may affect your amount of compensation. If your own conduct was also careless or reckless, your damages could be reduced depending on how much fault is attributable to you.
As an example, you were injured in an auto collision when the other driver was intoxicated. However, you were traveling at more than 20 miles over the posted limit. You may not recover 100 percent of your damages due to your own negligence.
How Your Seatbelt Affects Your Compensation: In Florida, the defendant in a personal injury case is allowed to present a defense regarding comparative negligence – namely, that you did not have a seatbelt on when the collision occurred. The theory is that you know the importance of buckling up, both from a safety standpoint and as required by law. The law will not allow you to recover the full amount of compensation that you otherwise could have recovered if you were wearing your seatbelt. In other words, you exacerbated your own injuries by deliberately choosing to not be safe.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Skilled Ocala, FL Car Accidents Attorney
For more information on the seatbelt defense and comparative negligence in Florida, please contact car accidents attorneys Piccin & Glynn, to set up a no-cost consultation. You can reach our Ocala, FL office by calling 352-581-6174 or going online. We have more than 60 years of combined experience representing clients in a wide range of personal injury cases, and we can help you too.