Can I Recover From The Other Driver If I Wasn’t Wearing My Seat Belt?
Imagine you are driving home from work. You make your way to a four-way intersection and, seeing you have the right of way, you proceed forward through the intersection. Suddenly, out of nowhere a vehicle slams into your driver’s side causing substantial damage to your car. In addition, you immediately have pain throughout your spine, excruciating headaches, and dizziness symptoms. Knowing that you are not at fault for the crash, you begin exiting the vehicle, only to realize that you were not wearing your seat belt. The question now is, “Can I recover from the other driver if I wasn’t wearing my seat belt?”
Seat Belt Laws
Under section 316.614 of the Florida Statutes, it is unlawful “to operate a motor vehicle or an autocycle in this state unless the person is restrained by a safety belt.” In addition, it is unlawful “to operate a motor vehicle or an autocycle in this state unless each passenger and the operator of the vehicle or autocycle under the age of 18 years are restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device.” However, Florida Statutes also state that if the other driver was negligent (like in your case), you can still collect damages, even if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time.
Notably, even though you may have the ability to collect damages under these circumstances, Florida is a comparative negligence state, meaning both parties will be judged by the court or jury and given a percentage of fault. If you are found to have any percentage of fault for the crash (by not wearing your seatbelt or otherwise), then the amount you receive in damages will be reduced by that percentage.
Back to The Example
Going back to the example set in the introduction, assume a jury awards you a total judgment of $100,000. During the trial, the other driver’s lawyer explains that you were not wearing a seat belt. If the jury determines that you were 25% at fault for not wearing a seat belt, then your $100,000 is reduced by 25% and you would only receive $75,000.
So while you can possibly collect damages for any injuries sustained in an accident, the amount you can collect will likely be reduced if you were not wearing a seat belt. So, before you drive off, remember to buckle up. It’s the safest and smartest thing to do.
If you have questions about an accident, please reach out and ask. We are available to answer your questions and to walk with you through the process.