In 2017, most people are well aware of the importance of wearing seat belts. According to a recent study, seat belt use rate is hovering around 90% for all drivers and passengers. This a great statistic because seat belts are known to save lives. Research has shown that using a seat belt will reduce the risk of a fatal injury during a car accident by 45% and reduce the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by almost 50%. Because seat belts play such a critical factor in determining life or death in a car accident, states have enacted seat belt laws to protect drivers and passengers. Currently, there are 34 states that have primary seat belt laws for front seat occupants and 15 states that only have secondary laws.
FLORIDA SEAT BELT LAW
In Florida, the seat belt law requires that front seat occupants must wear seat belts. Moreover, all passengers under the age of 18 must wear a seat belt or be in a child car seat. This law applies to all Florida cars, trucks, and vans. Drivers found to be in violation of the above requirements will be cited with a ticket.
FLORIDA SEAT BELT DEFENSE
Not only is driving without a seat belt unsafe and against the law, but it may also be used against an injured plaintiff in a car accident trial. If a plaintiff is found to have not been wearing his or her seat belt at the time of the accident, an insurance company will argue Florida’s seat belt defense to reduce the plaintiff’s damages. Florida is comparative negligence state which means that a plaintiff’s damages will be reduced in proportion to the amount they are found to be at fault. For example, if a car accident victim sues a negligent driver for a damages sustained in a Florida car accident, a jury may conclude that the accident victim was 30% at fault and the defendant driver was 70% at fault. In this situation, a plaintiff will only be able to recover 70% of their total damages due to comparative negligence.
Therefore, if a plaintiff is involved in a car accident and it is shown that the plaintiff was not wearing their seatbelt, the insurance company will attempt to show that the plaintiff’s failure to buckle up contributed to his or her injuries. This is an affirmative defense, thus requiring the defendant to bring forth this argument. It is on the defendant to show that:
- plaintiff failed to use an available and operational seatbelt;
- nonuse was unreasonable; and
- failure to use the seatbelt caused or substantially contributed to the plaintiff’s damages.
If a defendant is able to establish Florida’s seat belt defense, a plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by the amount they are found to be at fault. As such, it is not only important for all drivers to wear seat belts for safety purposes, but also because it may drastically affect the amount of money awarded when a plaintiff is injured by a negligent driver.