If I was hurt in an accident, can I still sue if I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt?
The short answer is yes, you can still sue the person responsible for your car accident injuries even if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt. However, you won’t receive as much compensation for your injuries as you would have if you had been wearing your seatbelt. Your damage awards are reduced based on your shared responsibility for the accident. By not wearing your seatbelt, you probably contributed to your injuries.
How does not wearing a seatbelt impact your claim?
Contributory negligence is the concept that explains your responsibility for your injuries. This concept says that when you are partially responsible for your injuries, the law reduces your damages according to your percentage of fault. For example, if you were 20% responsible for your injuries and your damages were $200,000, there would be a $40,000 reduction in what you receive because of your contribution to your injury.
How does this relate to wearing a seatbelt?
Not wearing a seatbelt is a frequent example of contributory negligence, especially in car accident claims. For example, in Nova Scotia if you are not wearing a seatbelt during an accident, you are automatically deemed 25% contributorily negligent. While the rules surrounding this are similar across the Atlantic Provinces, it is helpful to look at each province to understand how not wearing a seatbelt can affect your claim.
Contributory negligence in Nova Scotia
In Nova Scotia, the Motor Vehicle Act requires all drivers and passengers to wear a seatbelt when in a moving car. While failing to do so can result in a fine if caught, it also reduces your overall damage reward. Under the Insurance Act Regulations, the reduction is a minimum of 25% of any damages award. This reduction applies regardless of whether you not wearing your seatbelt contributed to your injuries. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
Contributory negligence in New Brunswick
In New Brunswick, the Motor Vehicle Act requires you to wear your seatbelt while in a moving vehicle. Like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick has implemented a 25% reduction in damage awards under its Insurance Act for failing to wear a seatbelt. Unlike in Nova Scotia, you can avoid this reduction in New Brunswick if you can show that not wearing the seatbelt did not contribute to your injuries.
Contributory negligence in Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador has the same legislative requirements as New Brunswick under its Insurance Act. The Act requires a 25% reduction in damages unless you prove that not wearing a seatbelt did not contribute to your injuries.
Contributory negligence in Prince Edward Island
The one Atlantic Canadian province that differs is Prince Edward Island. While wearing a seatbelt is required under PEI’s Highway Traffic Act and the Seatbelt Regulations, there is no legislation mandating a reduction in damages for a failure to wear a seatbelt.
Instead, Prince Edward Island follows the existing common law regarding the “Seatbelt Defence.” Established in Galaske v O’Donnell, the Seatbelt Defence is a common law duty to wear seatbelts. Suppose the person who caused the accident brings evidence showing that your failure to wear a seatbelt caused your injury. In this case, your failure to wear the seatbelt reduces your damages between 5% to 25%. Such was the case in Boertien v Carter, where Ms. Boertien was 20% responsible for her injuries, resulting in a corresponding reduction in her award.
Wearing a seatbelt helps keep you safe and reduces your risk of fines. However, failing to wear your seatbelt does not mean that you can’t sue the person responsible for your injuries. If you’ve been injured in an accident at the fault of another, our team can help you navigate the legal process.
MacGillivray Law is a personal injury law firm with offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We serve clients all across Canada.
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