Does Not Wearing A Seatbelt Automatically Reduce My Personal Injury Compensation?
Posted on 15th April 2020
Whilst we do not offer legal advice in areas of the criminal law, our solicitors in Lancaster know full well that the law requires drivers and passengers aged 14 and over in cars, vans and other commercial vehicles to wear a seatbelt, if available. If you are the driver of a vehicle, you are responsible for ensuring that anyone under the age of 14 wears a seat belt or uses an appropriate child restraint. Ok, so while we know you don’t need your local personal injury solicitor to tell you it’s a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt in a car (except in certain circumstances such as delivery drivers making regular deliveries at less than 50 metre intervals, when you are reversing, an Emergency Services vehicle and a Licensed Taxi driver, whilst plying for hire or carrying passengers), did you know that medical exemptions usually also apply, and that if you are injured, and not wearing a seatbelt, this can affect your claim for personal injury?
MG Legal, your Personal Injury Solicitor Lancaster, looks at the Civil implications on your Personal Injury Claim of not wearing a seatbelt.
The general rule, that isn’t really the rule
People who have some knowledge of the impact of not wearing seatbelts in a Road Traffic Accident which leads to a Personal Injury Claim will likely tell you that there is a 25% reduction in your compensation if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt. The 25% deduction comes from a 1976 case of Froom v Butcher, where the benchmark of 25% was set. This is known as a reduction for Contributory Negligence, in that you failed to take a simple step that might well have reduced your injuries.
Whilst insurer’s will generally make this argument early on in the case and indeed many personal injury Solicitors would not argue with it, MG Legal, your Personal Injury Solicitor Lancaster will argue with this and look at the case as a whole. It is not by any means impossible to reduce or even to remove any reduction.
How can Contributory Negligence be reduced?
Whilst it is unlikely you were performing one of the above “exceptional” tasks at the time of your road traffic accident, medical evidence, obtained by our personal injury solicitors, would assist in confirming, or indeed, disputing that not wearing a seatbelt has added to the injuries sustained.
Much can hinge on the Medical Evidence obtained. If it is the opinion of the medical expert who prepares your report that the injuries would not have been affected if you wore a seatbelt or not, there is a strong case to remove any reduction for Contributory Negligence. Even if they cannot say the injuries would have been wholly unaffected, the medical expert can still offer their expert opinion on the likely apportionment, saying that perhaps the injuries are, say, 10%-15% worse because of the lack of a seatbelt.
There are also some rare but not unheard of circumstances which allow that you would reasonably not have been wearing a seatbelt, such as if you have just got into or were about to get out of a car (this only usually applies when your vehicle is stationary and parked) as there must necessarily be a few moments between turning the engine on or off and your getting settled into the vehicle or gathering your belongings to get out before you would put on your seatbelt.
What if I cannot agree Contributory Negligence with the third-party insurer?
If you cannot agree a deduction, or if the third party insists on a contributory negligence deduction and MG Legal, your Personal Injury Solicitor Lancaster believe this is not warranted, you may seek the Court’s Judgement in the matter, just as if you did not agree on an overall settlement offer.
Many people see going to Court as a ‘silver bullet’ that guarantees better awards and a stern telling off for the third party for not making better offers. However, our personal injury solicitors are extremely well-versed, and any District Judge will only have reference to the same material used by our solicitors. Our solicitors in Lancaster will keep you advised every step of the way, and if we can settle for the most compensation possible outside of court, then we will advise any of our injured clients to do so. Court Proceedings are not something to be taken lightly as the Judge can apply a higher deduction up to 25%. We would, of course, advise you comprehensively prior to issue of and Proceedings as to the prospects of success.
What to do I want to make a Personal Injury Claim?
Contact MG Legal, your Personal Injury Solicitor Lancaster, to discuss how we can help you with your claim. We act in all manner of Personal Injury Claims and we aim to accept all Injury Claims on the basis of a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win, no fee agreement) to ensure that you have the access to the legal representation you need without worrying about finding money to pay legal fees at a traumatic time in your life.
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