Understanding the Seat belt Defense in Florida Automobile Accidents

In a car accident, you are much more likely to be injured if you are not wearing a seat belt. This is precisely why Florida has mandatory seat belt laws. Seat belt laws apply to all automobiles including pickup trucks and vans on the road. All passengers in the front seat must wear a seat belt and all passengers under 18 must wear a seat belt. In Florida, there are legal consequences for not wearing a seat belt.

When an individual is driving without a seatbelt, they increase their risk of injury in case of an accident. Florida law follows the doctrine of comparative negligence which means if you contribute to the accident then the amount you would otherwise recover in damages may be reduced in proportion to your fault. For example, if you are deemed 20 percent responsible for the accident then your maximum recovery will be 80 percent of the total damages. Comparative negligence states aim to hold each party responsible in relation to their fault, no more, no less.

If you’ve been in a collision and there is evidence that you were not wearing your seat belt at the time, then the defendant or the insurance company can point to the fact that your injuries were at least partially your fault. In other words, the defendant can use the seat belt defense to lessen their own responsibility. In Ridley v. Safety Kleen Corporation, the Florida Supreme Court held that the failure to use a seat belt “would henceforth be raised by an affirmative defense of comparative negligence.”

The court went on to explain how the plaintiff’s award was traditionally calculated under the theory of comparative negligence. In the past, the initial step would be to reduce the plaintiff’s recovery in proportion to his or her fault. Next, the jury would reduce the already reduced award by the percentage or amount of the plaintiff’s damages that were caused by failure to wear a seat belt.

The court held that the two step method is no longer necessary. Instead, when the jury is considering whether the plaintiff acted negligently, they should simply calculate a single total percentage for that comparative negligence whether it involved a seat belt issue or another issue of partial fault. This calculation of percentage will then be used to adjust the plaintiff’s total award. In short, the court simplified the way in which the issue of seat belt use could be raised by a tortfeaser as well as how it would pertain to damages.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence or careless driving of another then we can help. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, seasoned Miami accident attorney Robert Dixon can help you get the compensation you deserve. Our firm understands the nuances and defenses that come up in automobile accident cases. We will work diligently to investigate the facts of your case, work with adverse parties, consult experts and essentially do whatever it takes to get you in the most beneficial position possible. Call us today at our toll free number at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online form to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.


More Blog Posts:

Basic Slip and Fall Law in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, June 23, 2014

Understanding the Pure Comparative Negligence Law in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, June 23, 2014

Liability in Rental Car Accidents in Florida – Adams v. Bell Partners, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, June 23, 2014


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