The law is not as black and white as many people believe. After a car accident, so many of us wonder what the next step is, what’s required of us, and what traffic laws will affect our insurance claim. Many clients as us about seatbelts. More specifically, they want to know if not wearing a seatbelt will negatively affect their car accident claim.
The answer is yes, if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, your claim will be affected, and you may earn less than you expected or wanted. However, even though you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, you are still entitled to compensation.
To explain this we have to cover some Florida Statutes and legal terms like comparative negligence.
What Does the Law Say About Seatbelts?
According to Florida Statute §316.614.4(a): “It is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle or an autocycle in this state unless each passenger and the operator of the vehicle or autocycle under the age of 18 years are restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device…”
According to Tennessee Statute §55-9-603(a): “No person shall operate a passenger motor vehicle on any highway, as defined §55-8-101(22), in this state unless such person and all passengers four (4) years of age or older are restrained by a safety belt at all times the vehicle is in forward motion.”
Simply put, driving without a seatbelt against the law and if you are involved in a car accident while not wearing a seatbelt, you have broken the law.
However, again, that does not mean that you are not entitled to compensation. It does mean that your compensation will likely be less than the maximum you would have been entitled to if you were wearing a seatbelt at the time of the car accident.
Tennessee seatbelt laws and Florida seatbelt laws are virtually the same, and so are the seatbelt laws of almost every state. Though there are some slight differences, the bottom line is that wearing a seatbelt while driving is the law.
Comparative negligence is a rule of law that allows for both parties in a car accident to receive damages even if both parties are somewhat at fault.
If you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, and you are injured, you are seen as comparatively at fault for your injuries. Because if you were wearing a seatbelt, you may have had fewer injuries.
What If I’m At Fault: If you were at fault for the accident and you were not wearing a seatbelt, you cannot sue for damages.
What If The Other Driver Was At Fault: If the other driver was deemed at fault for the accident and you were not wearing a seatbelt, they can still be held liable for the damages.
So, your compensation you receive from the insurance company will be adjusted based on your level of negligence and how that contributed to the accident. It’s also true that passengers have to wear seatbelts in Florida.
Does Not Wearing a Seatbelt Affect My Insurance Claim?
Yes, seatbelt laws are very clear and if you were not wearing a seatbelt, the insurance company representing the liable driver will use that fact to minimize the damages you are entitled to for your injuries.
But again, just because you did not have a seatbelt on at the time of the accident, does not mean that you will receive no money. You are still entitled to compensation though the amount is affected because of the rule of comparative negligence. Wear a seatbelt or received less.
Injuries From Not Wearing A Seatbelt
The consequences of not wearing a seatbelt is almost always injury. Seatbelts have been designed to ensure that drivers and passengers are protected from Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object in motion stays in motion.
When you are in a car accident, the best first thing to change is speed. You are traveling at high speeds and when your car is impacted, it will likely slow down. At this point, your body will continue to move and bounce in the car, unless you are wearing a seatbelt. Your seatbelt tethers you to the car so when the car slows suddenly, your body remains in place and slows with it.
The most common injures from not wearing a seatbelt are:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Neck fractures
- Head Injuries
- Spinal Cord injuries
- Internal Bleeding
- Knee Trauma
- Facial injuries, cuts, and scars
Car accident injuries tend to be much worse for drivers and passengers that are not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident. Airbags are not enough to protect you in the event of a crash and are designed to work with seatbelts, so buckle up.
How Effective Are Seatbelts
To put it to a point, seatbelts are very effective at reducing injury and death as the result of a car accident.
- In 2019, 36,096 passengers and drivers were killed in car accidents, and 47% of those deaths were of people not wearing seatbelts.
- In 2017, seatbelts saved an estimated 14,995 lives.
- If you buckle up in the front seat, you reduce your risk of injury or death by between 45% and 50%.
- Passengers and drivers not wearing seatbelts are 30 times more likely to eject from the car in the event of an accident.
Seatbelts are live savers, simple as that. They have been designed, redesigned, tested, and retested for decades to ensure they are as safe as possible. Wearing a seatbelt will save your life, save you from injury, and will ensure that you get the maximum compensation possible after a car accident.
There are no reasons to not wear a seatbelt, so buckle up!
If you were involved in a car accident and you were not wearing a seatbelt, speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Call for a free case evaluation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: (800) 560-5059.