Wearing a seatbelt can save your life during a car accident. While this is indisputable fact, there are two other excellent reasons to wear your seatbelt:
- You can be pulled over and given a ticket if you’re not buckled up.
- If you are in a car accident, even if the other party is at fault for causing the accident, having not worn your seatbelt may hurt your personal injury claim.
The last thing we want when we’ve been injured is to receive less than we need for compensation to cover costs for medical treatment and repairs to or replacement of damaged property. If your life isn’t enough to convince you to buckle-up, perhaps the financial blow may persuade you.
What is the seatbelt law in Florida?
In order to fully understand the legal importance (and the impact it may have on your claim), we must examine Florida statute §316.614. This statute states that it is illegal for anyone:
- To operate a motor vehicle in this state unless each passenger and the operator of the vehicle under the age of 18 years are restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device pursuant to s. 316.613, if applicable; or
- To operate a motor vehicle in this state unless the person is restrained by a safety belt.
- It is unlawful for any person 18 years of age or older to be a passenger in the front seat of a motor vehicle unless such person is restrained by a safety belt when the vehicle is in motion.
Seatbelt laws vary state by state. In some states, driving without a seatbelt is classified as a secondary offense. This means that while a police officer may not be able to pull you over for not wearing your seatbelt, if the officer pulls you over for some other reason, and notices that you are not wearing your seatbelt, he can issue you a citation. In Florida, a seatbelt violation is considered a primary offense. This means that a police officer can pull you over for not wearing a seatbelt.
Seatbelt safety facts
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2017, seatbelts saved 14,955 lives. Further, “of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020, 51% were not wearing seat belts — a 4% increase from 2019.”
Seatbelts are often meant to work hand-in-hand with other safety features in the vehicle such as airbags. Seatbelts help to protect the occupants from sustaining damage from airbags, the NHTSA stating that “if you don’t wear your seat belt, you could be thrown into a rapidly opening frontal air bag. Such force could injure or even kill you.”
Another one of the main life-saving features of wearing your seatbelt is keeping you safely inside your vehicle instead of being launched through the windshield in the case of a car accident. Being ejected from your vehicle is almost always deadly.
What is the comparative negligence principle?
When someone gets hurt because of another person’s negligence, the injured person can claim damages. But if the injury victim is in some way responsible for their own injuries, the award can be reduced. It’s called comparative negligence, and it allows the claimant to be awarded some amount (if not full) compensation even if their own actions contributed to the injuries. For instance, if you are in an accident and you file a claim against the driver who caused the accident, if the judge finds that you were 30% responsible for the accident, and the defendant was 70% responsible, then you can be awarded 70% compensation for damages and injuries instead of the full amount. If you are seeking $200,000 in compensation, that means you will only be awarded $140,000. Note that even if you are 70% at fault, you may still be awarded 30% of the total compensation ($60,000) in your claim.
Why you need a Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer after a car accident
If you were in an accident with another vehicle, and you were not wearing your seatbelt for any reason, you should seek out the advice of a Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney. Even if the other vehicle was the at-fault party, whether they were texting while driving, driving under the influence, speeding, or engaging in any other risky driving behaviors, if you were not wearing your seatbelt, you may lose a significant portion of the compensation that you are seeking.
An experienced car accident lawyer knows the ins and outs of the legal system, and knows what to present to the court in order to get you the compensation you need in order to pay for your injuries and property damage. The legal process is a confusing and complicated one, and if you do not know how to navigate it expertly, you find yourself receiving far less money than you need.
At Yeboah Law Group, we can fight to make sure that you receive as close to the full amount of your compensation claim as possible, even if you were not wearing a seatbelt. We know that even the best of us can make a mistake. Don’t let this mistake ruin your life. If you have been involved in a car accident and suffered injuries, contact Yeboah Law Group today by calling or using our contact form to schedule an appointment. We proudly serve Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade, and all of South Florida.