Everyone knows that wearing a seat belt is a smart choice. Study after study has shown that people who wear seatbelts are far more likely to sustain fewer and less serious injuries in car wrecks than those who don’t.
A front-seat passenger who wears their seatbelt reduces their risk of a fatality or serious injury by 45 percent.
A PERSON WHO WEARS THEIR SEATBELT IS 70 PERCENT LESS LIKELY TO BE EJECTED FROM THE VEHICLE.
Yet, every day, hundreds of people are killed or maimed unnecessarily because they don’t wear their seatbelts. The reasons vary greatly—drivers cite “being in a hurry,” discomfort, wrinkled clothing, light traffic, and short trips as reasons that they don’t wear a belt. Other drivers simply have an overinflated sense of their ability to avoid wrecks.
The Wreck Was Not Your Fault, But You Weren’t Wearing a Seatbelt = Comparative Negligence
Even if the wreck you experience is not your fault, your failure to wear a seat belt can still greatly harm your case. Under Florida law, a person’s failure to wear their seatbelt is evidence of their negligence. At trial, a defendant accused of automobile negligence is entitled to argue to the jury that the plaintiff was also negligent. This idea is called “comparative negligence.” Essentially, the defendant admits that they were somewhat at fault, but argues that the plaintiff contributed to their own injuries.
The practical effect of the comparative negligence doctrine is that the jury will be able to assign percentages of fault when they come up with a verdict.
For example, a jury might find that a plaintiff sustained $100,000 in damages because of a car crash. If they find that the defendant is only 60% at fault, however, the jury will only award the plaintiff 60% of the total damages they suffered—because the plaintiff is 40% at fault themselves, it would be unjust to make the defendant pay for the plaintiff’s own mistakes.
Failure to Wear a Seatbelt Can Effect Your Settlement Amount
Failure to wear a seatbelt is by far one of the most common ways that a defendant tries to raise comparative negligence. By the same token, wearing a seatbelt is one of the easiest things to prevent serious injuries. It takes little to no time, and the protective benefits far outweigh any discomfort or time wasted. It a completely unforced error to subject yourself to a 40-50% discount on your car wreck case based on the failure to wear a seatbelt.
That is not to say that you cannot recover anything if you don’t wear your seatbelt during a crash. Sometimes, certain injuries would occur regardless of seatbelt status. In extremely rare cases, a seatbelt might make injuries worse. In any case, the first thing you should do if you are injured in a car crash is to call an experienced lawyer who can decide how best to handle the seatbelt issue.
While there are many personal injury lawyers, not all of them have equal training and qualifications. Lawyers are usually prohibited by the Florida Bar from calling themselves “experts” in a particular field. However, the Bar does allow some lawyers who have extensive experience and peer recognition in personal injury to take a test to become Board Certified Civil Trial Specialists. Although only 1% of Florida lawyers are board-certified in a civil trial, two out of the three lawyers at Zarzaur Law hold this certification.
Since all personal injury lawyers have the same “no cost no fee unless you win” payout structure, there is no reason not to hire someone who is not a specialist.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you’ve been the victim of an accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.