Drivers and passengers are required to wear a seat belt in the state of Florida. Approximately nine out of 10 motorists wear seat belts in Florida, according to a recent survey by the Florida Department of Transportation. If you choose not to wear and seat belt and are injured in an accident, you may be complicating your rights to seek compensation.
You may still seek compensation for injuries caused by another motorist in Florida, if you were not wearing a seat belt. But it will make the claims process more difficult. You can expect that the insurance adjuster representing the at-fault driver will contend that your failure to wear a seat belt caused your injuries or made your injuries far worse. You should consult with an experienced car accident lawyer about your legal options for recovery.
Florida Seat Belt Laws Aimed At Reducing Car Accident Injuries
Florida is among the states that make seat belt laws as primary enforcement laws, meaning that you can be stopped and ticketed simply for failure to wear a seatbelt. The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) advises that all drivers and passengers are required by state law to wear seatbelts at all times when in a motorized vehicle.
Those exempt from the law include bus passengers, newspaper employees in the process of making home deliveries, farm equipment operators, and those certified by a physician as having a physical condition that would be aggravated by the use of a seatbelt. In the event of a car accident, the FLHSMV advises that using seatbelts saves lives in three separate ways:
- By preventing drivers and passengers from being thrown from the vehicle;
- By protecting them against being thrown into each other or into the windshield, dashboard, or steering wheel;
- By keeping them in a seated position behind the wheel, where they stand a better chance of controlling the vehicle.
How Not Wearing A Seatbelt Could Impact Your Injury Claim
Car accident claims often involve drivers engaged in reckless behavior, such as speeding, running a red light, or driving under the influence. As the victim of a car accident caused by another driver, your failure to wear a seatbelt had nothing to do with why the accident occurred. But the at-fault driver’s insurance company and defense attorney will claim that your decision not to buckle up contributed to the severity of your injuries.
The amount you are entitled to receive may be reduced if you are found to be partially responsible for the damage you suffered.
Under Florida comparative fault statutes, the court could assign a percentage of blame, and reduce the overall settlement amount you receive. For example, if you suffered a head injury in an accident and your medical expenses were estimated to be $100,000 but you were determined to have been 40 percent responsible for the severity of your injuries due to not wearing a seatbelt, the total amount of compensation you would receive would be $60,000.
This can have a significant impact both in dealing with the immediate ramifications of your injuries, such as lost wages and the need for ongoing care, as well as with dealing with any long-term disabilities you suffer.
A skilled attorney may use a reconstruction of how the accident occurred and testimony of medical experts about your injuries to rebut the claims of defense attorneys regarding the failure to wear a seat belt.
Injuries That Can Occur Despite Wearing A Seatbelt
While seatbelts have been shown to help reduce car accident fatalities, serious and potentially life-threatening injuries may still occur. In studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it was determined that car accident injuries are generally influenced by the speed and velocity of impact, as well as where the impact occurred.
While injuries involving vehicles traveling at higher rates of speed affect the severity of injuries, the point of impact can influence the type of injuries suffered, regardless of whether the victim was wearing a seatbelt.
The following are four types of impacts, the injuries that can result, and the likelihood that wearing a seatbelt would have helped to prevent those injuries:
- Frontal Impacts: These often involve injuries to the lower extremities, such as broken hips, legs, or ankles, as well as head injuries caused by contact with the windshield or dashboard. Wearing a seatbelt was determined to be moderately helpful in preventing these types of injuries.
- Back Impacts: These accidents often result in injuries to the back and spinal column, which seatbelts play only a minor role in helping to prevent.
- Side Impacts: These accidents often result in head and pelvic injuries, which seatbelts do little to prevent.
- Rollover Accidents: As the result of victims being thrown inside the vehicle and potentially being ejected, these accidents produce the most severe types of injuries, which seatbelts can be effective in helping to prevent.
As the above shows, while wearing a seatbelt increases your overall safety and is required by Florida law, it may have little impact on the particular injuries you suffered in an accident or your rights to compensation in an accident claim.
Let Us Assist You with Your Case
At the Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC, our Florida car accident lawyers understand the devastating effects that serious car accidents can have on you and those you love. If you or someone you care about is injured in a car crash or collision caused by another motorist, contact the Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC today.
Our experienced Florida car accident lawyers provide aggressive legal representation to assist you in seeking the compensation you deserve. In situations in which your claim may be denied or reduced, our legal knowledge and experience can help to ensure your rights and interests are protected. We serve Brooksville, Lutz, and the surrounding Florida area. Don’t hesitate to call or contact our office online today for a free and confidential consultation.