No one plans on getting into an accident but there’s one thing you can do to be prepared in the event that you do: wear a seatbelt. Those who don’t wear a seat belt and are involved in an accident, generally, have dramatically more severe injuries than motorists who wear seat belts.
This principle is reflected in the way judges and juries view car accidents cases. If someone is injured in an auto accident and did not wear his seatbelt, he could be partially at fault for his injuries. It has been litigated so many times that it has been given its own name. It’s called the “seat belt defense.”
There are numerous Florida cases where the seat belt defense was litigated and juries found that the plaintiff (the injured person) was partially responsible for his injuries.
Florida law provides that it is unlawful for a driver, front passengers, or rear passengers under the age of 18 to ride in a motor vehicle without a seatbelt. FL ST § 316.614.
When a motorist does not wear a seat belt, but the vehicle was equipped with a seatbelt and it was operational, the seat belt defense may apply. In some cases, even where a seatbelt is not operational but the vehicle was equipped with one, the defense may apply. A recent Florida case, Jones v. Alayon, 162 So.3d 360 (Fla. App. 4 Dist., 2015), is an example of the seat belt defense. In this case, the appellate court upheld the jury’s verdict finding that the plaintiff, who died in an auto accident after being ejected from the vehicle, was 70% responsible for his own death. The jury found that the other motorist who caused the accident was only 30% responsible. As a consequence of finding the deceased driver responsible, the jury awarded his estate only a fraction of the value of a life. In that case, the seat belt was not operational but the jury nonetheless considered the failure to wear a seat belt to be a big factor in causing his injuries.
In the state of Florida, the failure to wear a seat belt may only result in a ticket and a small fine if you’re pulled over by an officer. But if you’re in an accident and you’re injured, the consequences could be much more serious.
If you’ve been in an accident, contact the compassionate attorneys at the Coleman Law Group, to protect your rights.