Florida’s Seat Belt Defense in Car Accident Cases
Florida, like most other states, has safety restraint laws to reduce the risk of severe injury or death in a car accident. Florida’s seat belt laws require that drives, all front seat passengers, and any passengers under the age of 18 years wear a safety belt. Failing to wear a safety restraint can result in a traffic violation and fine. However, not buckling up can also result in your car accident claim being denied or reduced.
Under the seat belt defense, a defendant can claim that you should not receive full compensation for your injuries because you failed to wear your safety belt. This defense is permitted in Florida under Florida’s comparative negligence laws. Because your injury claim could be denied or severely limited, we urge you to contact our Florida accident attorneys to discuss your case. Our attorneys are familiar with the safety belt defense and understand the best ways to counteract that claim by an insurance company.
The Burden of Proof Lies with the Defense
If the insurance company raises the failure to wear a safety restraint as a defense, the burden of proof is on the company. For this defense to work, the company must prove that you were not wearing a safety device at the time of the collision. It must then prove that there is a direct connection between your injuries and the failure to use the device. In other words, your injuries would not have occurred, or your injuries would not have been as severe had you been wearing a safety device at the time of the crash.
Even though the defense can be difficult to prove because the insurance company must have actual evidence, not just conjecture or speculation, to prove its claim, the defense has been successful in Florida car accident lawsuits. When the defense is used successfully, a traffic accident victim’s compensation can be reduced through the comparative negligence laws applicable in car crash cases.
How Does Comparative Negligence Work with the Seat Belt Defense?
Under Florida’s comparative negligence laws, if you are found to be partially at fault for a car crash, your compensation can be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you for the collision. For example, if a jury finds that you are 40 percent at fault and the other driver is 60 percent at fault for a collision, you lose 40 percent of the recovery. If your damages totaled $100,000, the most compensation you can receive is $60,000 ($100,000 less 40 percent).
Therefore, if an insurance company or defense attorney is successful in arguing this defense, the jury will assign a percentage of fault that includes failing to wear your safety belt. In reality, you lose money because you chose not to obey Florida’s seat belt laws.
Please Buckle Up!
There is overwhelming evidence that wearing safety belts saves lives and reduces the risk of severe injuries in motor vehicle accidents. We urge to you obey the law and buckle up every time you are in a vehicle to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm in a traffic accident.