Seatbelts & Auto Accidents In Florida
The correlation between seat belt use and lower rates of crash fatalities has been well documented over the years. However, many people still have questions and concerns over the role of seat belts if they are involved in an accident and were not wearing their own safety belt. If this is your situation, speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer can help clear up some confusion about how best to go forward with any claim for injuries.
Seat Belts Save Lives
Seat belts save lives, regardless of any effect that not wearing one might have on a claim for medical expenses. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that while millions of drivers do not buckle up regularly, overall usage of seatbelts has increased since 2002, reaching approximately 87 percent prevalence nationwide – in other words, 87 percent of drivers regularly buckle up while driving. There is a discrepancy between rates in states where seatbelt use is primarily enforced, as opposed to those in which it is a secondary offense, which adds up to about 10 percent. Florida is a primary enforcement state, meaning that a law enforcement officer does not need another reason besides seeing a driver not wearing their belt to make a traffic stop.
Many teenagers and adults do forget to buckle up, or they may simply not believe themselves at risk for an accident. 2016 statistics report approximately 23,700 traffic-related fatalities, and of those deaths, over half of those aged 13-44 were not wearing seatbelts at the time of their crashes. Position in the vehicle also makes a difference, as statistics show seatbelt usage in rear passenger seat is, on the average, significantly lower than those in the front of a vehicle. One wonders how many lives increased usage might have saved.
Does It Erase My Claim?
If someone is in an accident and was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, one of the first questions they usually ask an attorney is whether or not that lack of seatbelt use will preclude any recovery for medical bills, loss of quality of life and the like. The answer is that in most situations, it will not – in other words, someone can still recover in a negligence lawsuit even if they were not wearing a seatbelt. Florida honors a concept called negligence per se, which means that if someone breaks a law and injures a person that the law was supposed to protect, they are deemed to have been negligent under the law, which makes a plaintiff’s case a lot easier to prove. Florida’s seatbelt law does make not wearing a seatbelt “unlawful,” but in that sense, “unlawful” is not enough to count as being negligence per se.
Florida also still uses another common-law concept called comparative fault, and under this system, a plaintiff might still be able to recover for their injuries from a defendant. The law holds that any fault on the part of the plaintiff “diminishes proportionately the amount awarded” – in other words, lowers the amount a plaintiff can recover in court – but it does not bar recovery. Thus, if you were held to be 30 percent liable for your own injuries, but the defendant was still found liable, you would receive an award that was 30 percent less, but you would still receive a jury award.
Call A Personal Injury Lawyer Today
When you have been in an auto accident, your first priority is healing and recovering, so it can seem impossible to seek compensation for your bills, especially if you fear you might have done something to help cause the accident. You need a compassionate and dedicated attorney who will fight for you, and the Tampa car crash lawyers at Rinaldo Law Group have a history of doing just that. Call us today at 813-831-9999 for a free consultation.