Almost all of us grow up hearing it all the time: “Put on your seat belt”. From family members to commercials, to highway road signs that read ‘click it or ticket’; we are almost always told to wear seat belt. The benefit of wearing a seat belt is simple: to make sure you are not injured, or you receive fewer injuries in a car accident.
But what happens to your car accident case if you were not wearing a seat belt? Or if the other driver was not wearing a seat belt? Even if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, you have the right to recover settlement money.
The Law Requires Everyone in a Car to Wear a Seat Belt
That’s right. No matter what, you have to wear a seat belt almost always. According to the Department of Transportation: “The most comprehensive seat belt policy is a primary enforcement seat belt law that covers all occupants, regardless of where they are sitting in the vehicle.” Florida Statutes Section 316.614(4)(b).
Seat belt laws in each state might differ slightly, but for the most part, it is a requirement for everyone in a vehicle to be wearing a seat belt.
Can Anyone Prove That You Were Not Wearing A Seat Belt?
Yes. As often happens with most accidents, the responding police officer will use eyewitness testimony and speak with both drivers and passengers in both cars. Sometimes, traffic light cameras, dashboard cameras, and even some injuries can provide proof that you or the other driver were not wearing a seat belt.
If You Were Not Wearing a Seat Belt
You can still file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver if you were involved in a car accident and you were not wearing a seat belt.
When the insurance company is deciding how much money to give you for pain and suffering, lost wages, and any other damages, they will lower your settlement and try to give you less because you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision. Florida law follows a doctrine of comparative negligence, which means that you may be held accountable for some of your own damages because you were not wearing a seat belt. Florida Statutes Section 316.614(10).
A West Palm Beach car accident lawyer will know exactly how you can fight these tactics and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve out of the settlement.
If the Other Driver Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt
As mentioned above, if the other driver was not wearing a seat belt and it was proved in court, then their settlement amount may be adjusted based on the injuries that may have been caused by their negligence and how much of a factor that played in the injuries they received.
Not Wearing A Seat Belt as A Passenger
The same with drivers, passengers involved in a car accident may still file an accident settlement claim. The same standards will hold in the passenger’s claim. You can file for full compensation for your injuries as a passenger.
There are instances when injured passengers will use the legal argument that the driver may be partially liable since he or she failed to insist to buckle up before starting the car. But then again, only a legal attorney can tell what to do as this is a case to case basis. Also, this is still subject to the state’s seat belt law.
Primary and Secondary Enforcement Laws
Florida is a secondary seat belt law while Tennessee is a primary seat belt law state. Tennessee’s hands-free law is also an interesting look at how the state handles special cases of car accidents.
Primary – police officers can stop you and give you a traffic ticket for not wearing a seat belt.
Secondary – police officer cannot stop you for not wearing a seat belt, but if you are stopped for a primary violation, an officer can cite you for not wearing a seat belt as a secondary violation.
Why We Wear Seat Belts
In the United States, over 6 million car accidents happen every year – an estimated 90 deaths every day because of car accidents. Seat belt laws are strictly reinforced to protect drivers and passengers from injuries and fatalities. A seat belt keeps you in place and not wearing one while driving can significantly affect your car accident settlement claim.
You can still file a car accident settlement claim even if not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. However, your accident claim may be minimized or reduced because of your negligence to wear a seat belt. The other party’s insurance may use the non-wearing of a seat belt reason why you have sustained these common car accident injuries which could have been prevented or minimized had you worn a seat belt.
What to Do When Involved in A Car Accident?
It is vital to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Car accident claims entail processes that only an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can handle.
Look for a lawyer with a proven record of handling car accident claims to protect your best interest. A good lawyer can always help you evaluate your circumstances and come up with a strategy that will minimize any degree of negligence on your part.
An experienced car accident attorney will give you the best legal advice based on the facts of your case. If you or your loved one is involved in a car accident, we can help. Speak to a Steinger, Greene & Feiner lawyer and let us get you the compensation you deserve.