Impact of My Failure to Wear a Seatbelt on My Accident Injury Claim
Seatbelt use has saved the lives or reduced the severity of injuries suffered by millions of people during motor vehicle accidents throughout the United States over the last few decades. While some states have laws that make seatbelt use mandatory, many states still leave the decision to “buckle up” to individual motorists. We frequently receive inquiries from injury victims or their family members asking whether the failure to wear a seatbelt will adversely affect their injury claim. The answer depends on the jurisdiction in which your collision occurred. Fortunately, Florida car accident victims may not have to worry about their compensation being reduced based on seatbelt use, but the law is tougher on those who elect not to use safety restraints in other states.
States follow several different approaches to determining the impact of seatbelt use on the right to a financial recovery. The strictest states that follow a traditional approach to fault permit a defendant to allege the “seatbelt defense.” In states that recognize this defense, the at-fault driver’s insurance company or the at-fault driver if a lawsuit has been filed can utilize this defense to reduce the amount of an accident injury victim’s recovery in some cases. This legal defense hinges on the theory that the injury victim did not cause the crash but the lack of use of safety restraints contributed to the seriousness of any injuries.
..."Typically, the right to pursue a claim for compensation related to an accident caused by a negligent driver in Florida should not be affected by seatbelt use, but you should seek immediate legal advice if you have concerns about this issue."
Two other legal concepts affect the impact of seatbelt use on injury claims – comparative negligence and mitigation. The precise interplay of these legal theories and the seatbelt defense will depend on state law. In jurisdictions that follow the comparative fault theory, the amount of an injury victim’s recovery can be reduced in proportion to the amount of fault assigned to the injured party. Florida is a “pure comparative fault” state, an injury victim can recover damages no matter how much fault is assigned to the plaintiff. Even if a jury decides the injury victim was 97 percent responsible for the severity of his or her injuries, the plaintiff theoretically could still recover three percent of any damages. In “modified comparative fault” jurisdictions, the injured party’s recovery can be barred entirely if the fault assigned to the plaintiff exceeds a certain percentage, which typically will be fault of 50 or 51 percent depending on the state.
Mitigation is a related legal theory that also might make seatbelt use relevant. The law imposes a duty on a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit to make reasonable efforts to minimize damages (different types of loss). In some states, the insurance company can argue that the failure to use a seatbelt amounted to a failure to mitigate damages. The amount of any recovery could be reduced based on a lack of mitigation.
Typically, the right to pursue a claim for compensation related to an accident caused by a negligent driver in Florida should not be affected by seatbelt use, but you should seek immediate legal advice if you have concerns about this issue. The lawyer can provide an overview of your rights and offer guidance on how to protect those rights.
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Fuentes Berrio Schutt represents injury victims and families of victims tragically killed in an accident throughout the Florida. Our car accident attorneys are ready to answer your questions and meet with you about your claim. Call us 24/7 at 954-752-1110 for your free case review and consultation. Nosotros hablamos español.
Fuentes Berrio Schutt
709 E Hillsboro Blvd
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
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Personal Injury Lawsuit Attorneys in Deerfield, FL
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