Yes, not wearing a seat belt will affect your car accident claim! But how much it will impact your ability to collect full compensation for your damages and injuries depends on many factors, some you are able to control; others you are not. Fortunately, one of the most important factors is completely within your control. Hiring the right personal injury accident attorney!
All too often, the at-fault driver’s insurance company or their lawyer will try to deny your accident claim altogether, or reduce the compensation amount of your claim, stating that you are to blame for the extent of your injuries.
Statistically, seat belts have been shown to save lives and reduce the severity of damage to the body in an impact collision. Also, it is mandatory under Florida law. So, yes, in a perfect world everyone would put their seat belt on every time they get in a car or truck. But the reality is, accidents happen every day, and every day people are hurt or killed in these accidents. And the media, and insurance companies bombard people with the message that ‘if they were only wearing their seat belt, this would not have happened.”
So how does this affect your car accident claim if you were not wearing a seatbelt? Because this message is misleading, it is easy to make a dangerous assumption – that if only you had buckled up, all would be fine now. At-fault drivers use this perception to claim that the injuries you sustained are your fault, not due to the fact that they ran a red light and hit you. Or because they were texting while driving and rear-ended your car. By shifting the accountability solely to the injured party, they believe that any wrongdoing on their part is forgiven.
If you have been injured in a car accident and were not wearing a seat belt, the settlement offer from the at-fault driver’s insurance company may be lower. And there may be no indication that the adjuster has taken into account the lack of a seat belt. But you can be sure they are aware, and if a lawsuit is filed, the adjuster knows that the seat belt defense will be allowed by the court and will impact how much compensation will ultimately be paid. Do you think it would be wise to have someone smart, savvy, and experienced in these matters protecting your rights and fighting for you?
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Countering the Seat Belt Defense
There are avenues available for your attorney to use which may counter the at-fault driver’s assertion that non-use of a seat belt caused your injuries.
Here are a few examples:
1. The defense must prove a causal connection between your non-use of a seat belt and the injuries you sustained.
Utilizing this approach often requires a close examination of the medical records and the testimony of expert witnesses. Having a respected medical professional state that the reason for your injuries is not because of your failure to wear a seat belt will give significant credibility to your defense.
2. Government Administered Seat Belt Effectiveness Tests
If the defense tries to use government administered seat belt effectiveness tests to argue that the effectiveness of seat belts, your attorney can argue if the defense tries to use government administered seat belt effectiveness tests to argue that the effectiveness of seat belts, your attorney can argue that they tests are generally flawed for the following reasons:
- The tests are performed using anatomical dummies that are designed and therefore only valid for someone who is approximately a 5’7″ 165-pound male. If you are not a 5’7” 165-pound male, the tests would not necessarily provide accurate results applicable to you.
- The tests are conducted with the seat belt secured tightly across the dummies waist, which gives the maximum benefit from seat belt usage. However, most people do not wear their seat belt this way, which means the test results are not indicative of the effects for the average person.
- Your attorney should also look at any other physical attributes you may have which differentiates you from the so-called “average” person. Are you significantly taller or shorter than the average person? A short person may sit closer to the steering wheel than other people, and therefore sustained injuries, regardless of the seat belt. A taller person may sit farther back.
3. Window Shade Device
If the seat belt system had a “Window Shade Device” your attorney can argue that it can make seat belts less effective to the point that even if a seat belt was worn, the aftermath of an accident makes it look like there was no seat belt use. The “Window Shade Device” is a comfort feature that allows the wearer to leave some slack in the tension of the belt. This can happen intentionally or accidentally by pulling on the belt. It has been well documented that slack in a seat belt system seriously compromises the effectiveness of the seat belt as a whole. Thus, if your client’s seat belt system had the “Window Shade Device” feature, it is possible that your injuries were no more severe than they would have been if you were wearing a seat belt.
So, while you can count on the fact that not wearing a seat belt will affect your car accident claim in Florida, there are ways to effectively counter the seat belt defense. The first step in doing so in hiring an attorney who knows the ins-and-outs of the legal complexities.
And next time you get in vehicle, think about if it is really worth the risks that come with not wearing a seat belt. Yes, we all know that they can be uncomfortable and are not always easy to adjust. But you know what else can also be uncomfortable? Wearing a full leg plaster cast for months – especially if those months include July and August in Florida!
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Having a knowledgeable, trusted personal injury attorney working for you can make the difference in ensuring you get full compensation for your injuries and damages. Your attorney will know where to find the evidence you need to support your claim.
At Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., we listen to you and want to hear your story!
When you contact us, we will take the time to get to know you and understand all the ways your life has been affected by your accident. We pride ourselves on being empathetic, compassionate, and caring. This is just one of the reasons we are Florida’s top-rated personal injury attorneys – providing personalized legal advice addressed to meet your individual needs.
From the first call, you will know that we will be there with you, helping you to navigate through what can be a complex, difficult, and emotionally challenging time. We strive to provide you with all the information and resources you need. We are dedicated to making your life easier. From start to finish, we will promptly answer all your questions and provide the best legal advice, so you can make informed decisions about your future.
We build trust through open, timely communication, and straightforward legal advice. We are an award-winning, established personal injury law firm, fighting for our clients for over 60 years, and have recovered more than $145 million in awards.
Contact us today and we will fight to get the results you deserve.