Besides Being Unsafe, Can Not Wearing A Seatbelt Hurt Your Case?

Seat Belts and Contributory Negligence

If you’re injured in a car accident by a reckless or drunk driver, you have every right to seek compensation for your injuries. However, if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, the amount of compensation owed to you can be significantly reduced. This is because not wearing a seatbelt is a form of negligence, and that’s one of the deciding factors in almost every personal injury case.

Understanding negligence

In law, negligence refers to the “failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another”. An example of negligence would be a drunk driving accident - the drunk driver would have acted in a negligent way by getting behind the wheel when they weren’t able to drive in a safe manner. 

Negligence is such an important part of injury law because it determines who’s at fault for an injury. Staying with the example of a drunk driving accident, the drunk driver would be at fault for any injuries they caused, because of their negligent actions. The drunk driver would have to fully compensate any injured party, since they were solely at fault.

However, depending on the specifics of a case, not all fault can be attributed to one party. What if the drunk driver had injured a bicyclist who wasn’t wearing a helmet - would the proper use of a helmet have reduced any injuries sustained? Should the drunk driver have to compensate fully for injuries that may not have been completely their fault? These questions bring up the topic of contributory negligence

What is contributory negligence?

Contributory negligence refers to any action or inaction that a plaintiff took that contributed to their own injury, either by helping to cause the accident or by furthering their own injuries. 

An example of contributory negligence would be a car crash victim refusing to seek proper medical treatment for their injuries, and then attempting to seek compensation. If the injured had sustained a concussion that developed into a brain tumour because they neglected medical treatment, the tumour isn’t the fault of the other driver. A plaintiff must be responsible for mitigating their own damages. 

When a plaintiff is found to have contributed to their own injuries, it will reduce the amount of compensation they can receive. Determining just how much the plaintiff is at fault for their injuries is a complicated process, but there are set guidelines for common contributory negligent acts, such as not wearing a seatbelt.

Seat belts and contributory negligence

In Nova Scotia, if you don’t wear a seatbelt during an accident, you are automatically found to be 25% contributorily negligent. This means that when all the general damages are assessed for your injuries/loss, you won’t be compensated for 25% of the total.

As personal injury lawyers who have had many years experience representing victims of car accidents, our best advice to you is to always wear a seatbelt when driving. Not only is it much safer, but you also won’t have to worry about losing any compensation for your injuries. 

If you’re considering pursuing legal action against a negligent party, don’t hesitate to contact us here or call 1-888-434-0398 for a free consultation. For more information on contributory negligence, consult our resources below. 

Resources

Siskinds Law Firm: How damages are assessed in a personal injury case

Field Law: To belt or not to belt: New limits on contributory negligence

Find Law: Contributory and Comparative Negligence