Did you know that reports show only 9.2% (approximately) of people in the Sunshine State do not wear their seatbelts consistently? That’s an impressive rate of safe drivers and passengers. However, what happens if you were in an accident and were not wearing your seatbelt? Can you still recover compensation?
The simple answer is yes. However, if you are involved in an accident where you sustained injuries or property damage in Florida due to someone else’s negligence, your compensation amount may not be what you expect.
According to Florida’s seat belt law, not wearing your seat belt is not negligence per se; however, it may be used as evidence of comparative negligence. Because the situation can be complex and several legal elements may be considered, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced West Palm Beach accident lawyer from Fetterman Law.
We can review the facts of your case, gather evidence, and determine if you can recover compensation. The first step is to contact our office to schedule a free consultation. You can also learn more about the law and your rights here.
Understanding Florida Seat Belt Laws
Before assessing your options, let’s lay down the basic groundwork of the Florida seat belt laws. Florida Statute 316.614, also known as the Florida Safety Belt Law, mandates that all front-seat occupants of a vehicle and all passengers under 18, regardless of their seating position, must wear a seatbelt or be restrained by a child restraint device.
Failure to abide by these regulations can result in a nonmoving traffic violation, which carries fines and additional penalties. Now that you know the law, it is essential to understand how it impacts your right to sue for compensation after an accident.
Comparative Negligence in Florida
Florida follows a pure comparative negligence doctrine. This legal framework allows you to recover damages even if you are partly at fault for your injuries. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Let’s say you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, and it is determined that this failure contributed 20% to your injuries. In this scenario, you can still pursue a claim, but your recovery would be reduced by 20%. Engaging the services of adept Florida accident lawyers can aid in ensuring that your level of fault is assessed fairly and justly.
Building a Strong Case with Florida Accident Lawyers
While your claim is technically not barred by your failure to adhere to Florida seat belt laws, building a robust case is vital. Florida accident lawyers can guide you in gathering evidence to substantiate your claim. This might include:
- Medical Records: Documenting the extent and nature of your injuries is crucial. Your lawyer will help you in meticulously compiling all relevant medical records.
- Accident Reports: Official reports can give an unbiased account of the accident, which can be instrumental in building your case.
- Witness Statements: Eyewitness accounts can offer fresh perspectives and bolster your claim. It is essential to record these statements promptly.
Pursuing a Claim: Step by Step
Having understood the law, you now know your rights and if you can recover compensation. Once you know the facts, you can file a claim with your Florida accident lawyer. The steps in this process include the following:
- Seek Medical Attention: Your health should be your utmost priority. Seek immediate medical attention after the accident.
- Report the Accident: Report the accident to the relevant authorities.
- Document the Scene: If possible, take photographs of the accident scene, including your injuries and damages to the vehicle.
- Consult a Lawyer: Before making any statements or accepting settlements, consult a lawyer to understand your rights and the best way forward.
Settlement Negotiations and Trials
After you file a claim, your attorney can begin negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Many personal injury claims are settled outside of court.
If negotiations stall, filing a lawsuit might be the next logical step. A trial is a structured process where both parties present their case, and a judge or jury decides the outcome. Here, adhering to the rules of evidence and courtroom procedures is vital. Your attorney will work to help ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve.
Understanding Your Rights to Compensation After an Accident
While not wearing a seatbelt can affect your personal injury claim, it does not necessarily negate your ability to sue for damages. Thanks to comparative negligence used in Florida, you retain the right to compensation, albeit potentially reduced.
To navigate this process, it is recommended that you find and hire an experienced accident lawyer. At Fetterman Law, our legal team is ready to help you get the full compensation you are entitled to. The first step is to call us to schedule a free consultation.