There are so many factors that could come into play together to create a prime scenario for a car accident. Distracted driving. Getting lost in your own thoughts. Arguing with your kids in the back seat. Being in a hurry. Rain. If you’re the one who causes the accident, a long list of questions will come to mind. “How much is this going to cost me?” “Will my car insurance go up?” “Are they going to sue me?”
Now, let’s say that the other driver has medical injuries, and that some of them would not have happened had they been wearing their seatbelts. Would you still be held liable for the accident?
Are You at Fault for a Car Accident If the Other Driver Wasn’t Wearing a Seatbelt?
The answer is that it depends. A court will look at several factors:
What is the extent of the injuries?
Were they all caused by not wearing a seat belt, or would the other person still been injured even if they had been wearing it? The answer is rarely clear cut. You could make an assumption that the other person may not have gotten injured had they been wearing a seat belt, but that’s a question only an expert can answer. Specifically, doctors involved in the treatment, or accident reconstruction experts could be deposed during a process called discovery. This is when your attorney would ask a long list of questions relating to the accident, and the expert has to answer them under oath. Sometimes, the injury wouldn’t have happened at all with a seatbelt, while other times, the injury would’ve still happened to a lesser degree, or maybe even wearing the seatbelt was irrelevant because the person would’ve been injured anyway.
Are there any other damages?
Now, let’s say that you got an expert to testify that all medical injuries sustained by the other driver could’ve been prevented had they been wearing a seatbelt. If you caused the accident, you’d still be liable for damage caused to their car, as well as car rental costs, mental anguish, or any other losses arising out of the accident.
What is the extent of the other party’s negligence?
Running a red light, speeding, texting while driving, not looking over your shoulder for blind spots when switching lanes… all these are examples of negligence. However, so is not wearing a seatbelt. Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if more than one person is responsible for an accident, whatever amount of damages each can recover will be diminished by their own percentage of responsibility. For example, if you caused an accident because you ran a red light and the other party sustained $20,000 in medical bills, a judge is going to inquire as to whether those injuries would’ve been less had the other driver been wearing a seatbelt. If you think that the answer is yes, you’ll have to show evidence supporting your claim (e.g. if you claim that $10,000 of those medical bills could’ve been prevented by a seatbelt, you have to prove it). If you’re successful with your claim, then the other party can only collect $10,000 from you.
How Are You Going to Pay for Injuries After a Car Accident?
Florida Statutes section 627.736 requires that all car insurance policies provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, any driver can file a claim with their insurance company to receive PIP coverage, which includes:
- 80% of medical bills
- 60% of lost wages
- Up to a limit of $10,000
Claims must be filed within 14 days from the date of the accident, and cover the named insured, relatives, anyone who was driving their car, passengers, and anyone who may have gotten injured during the accident. If their damages are over $10,000, they can sue you for the difference.
That being said, never admit fault. Provide your full name and contact information as well as show your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and car registration to the police officer at the scene, but do not volunteer information or agree to speak with the other party’s attorney or insurance claims adjustor before consulting with an attorney first.
Call Us at Clark Law for a Free Consultation
If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. The longer you wait, the higher the chance of missing the opportunity to file for certain damages, or obtain reliable evidence for your case.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.