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Not Wearing a Seatbelt Can Hurt Your Car Accident Injury Case
Seatbelts save lives. They also reduce the likelihood of catastrophic injury in a car accident and are required to be worn under Florida law. Conversely, not buckling up can put your life, health, and driving record at risk. And if you are injured in a car crash when driving or riding without your seatbelt on, you can also be risking your ability to recover compensation for your losses in a car accident lawsuit.
The most fundamental facts that a car accident lawsuit plaintiff must prove to a judge or jury are that:
- The other driver was to blame for the crash
- The other driver’s negligence caused the injuries and losses the plaintiff suffered in the accident.
Not all car accidents are entirely the fault of one driver or the other. There is often plenty of blame to go around in a car wreck. Same goes for the injuries suffered in a car accident. Even if a driver is 100% responsible for causing an accident, the occupants of the other car could be found partially responsible for the nature and severity of their injuries if they weren’t wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. If a judge or jury finds that you would not have suffered your injury or it would have been less severe had you been buckled in, the value of your claim and the amount you could recover in a Florida car accident lawsuit could be significantly reduced
“Comparative Fault” in Florida Car Accident Lawsuits
When multiple parties are found at fault for a car accident or the injuries incurred, Florida courts will determine how damages will be allocated in a lawsuit using a system known as “proportionate responsibility,” sometimes also referred to as “comparative fault.”
Florida law regarding comparative fault provides that “In a negligence action [such as a car accident lawsuit], contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.” F.S.A. § 768.81(2).
Here’s how comparative fault works in a Florida car accident lawsuit involving the failure to wear a seatbelt. Let’s say that a jury finds that an injured plaintiff who sued another driver for compensation suffered $100,000 in damages. However, the jury also determined that while the defendant was 80% responsible for the accident and injuries, the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt was 20% of the reason the injuries happened or were as serious as they were. The plaintiff driver would only receive an award of $80,000 in damages from the defendant because, under Florida law, “the court shall enter judgment against each party liable on the basis of such party’s percentage of fault…”
Obviously, there are life and death reasons to always wear a seatbelt. But there are dollars and cents reasons as well.
Let Our Tampa Car Accident Lawyers Help
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence or recklessness, please reach out to our Tampa car accident lawyers right away. We have a long track record of success obtaining compensation for Florida car accident victims and will be by your side every step of the way.
Please call one of our Tampa car wreck attorneys today at (800) 840-0977 or contact us online to arrange for your free initial consultation and case evaluation. We look forward to assisting you.