How failure to wear a seatbelt can impact your Personal Injury Compensation Claim
Posted on 6th January 2020
Our team of personal injury solicitors in Preston are often called upon to often discuss the repercussions of failing to drive legally. But we don’t often talk about what happens to your personal injury compensation claim if you fail to abide by the law.
One common law-breaking offence, which our personal injury solicitors find more common than you may think, is failing to wear a seatbelt. Not only (and, yes, we will repeat ourselves one more time) is it against the law, but it’s also something that could really affect the amount of compensation you are entitled to, in the event that you’re injured in a road traffic accident that isn’t your fault.
The term used by the Court, which would be raised as a defence to your claim by any good injury compensation claim solicitors, is contributory negligence. This means that you are held to have contributed to your injuries, due to your own actions.
For example, if your injuries could have been completely prevented by wearing a seatbelt, you will be deemed to be 25% responsible for causing them. Your compensation will therefore be reduced by 25%.
If your injuries were made more severe by your lack-of-seatbelt, you will be deemed to be 15% responsible for your injuries, and your compensation will therefore be reduced by the same amount.
If you can see the pattern already, forgive us, but if your injuries are deemed as having had no impact by your lack-of-seatbelt, you will not be penalised in your compensation award.
The leading case relied upon by the Court in these cases, is Froom v Butcher , heard in the Court of Appeal.
The claimant (‘C’) had made the decision not to wear a seatbelt whilst driving, due to his dislike of them, and because he had seen drivers trapped following a road traffic accident, due to their seatbelt. C suffered from bad injuries, including to his head, chest and a broken finger. Even though the crash was entirely the defendant’s fault, had C been wearing his seatbelt, he would have avoided the head and chest injuries.
The Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court held in favour of C, given that there was no legal statute at this time, compelling people to wear one. The law requiring drivers and front passengers to wear a seatbelt wasn’t introduced until 31st January 1983, and rear passengers didn’t have to wear one until 1989 (for children) and 1991 (for adults).
Anyway … back to the case. The defendant appealed on the issue of whether a person’s failure to wear a seatbelt amounts to contributory negligence under section 1(1) of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945.
The defendant’s appeal was allowed to proceed. The Court of Appeal considered the case and held that:
(1) Determining whether a person is guilty of contributory negligence is down to not what caused the accident, but the cause of the damage.
(2) C’s injuries, except for the broken finger, were caused by his failure to wear a seatbelt so he was guilty of contributory negligence.
(3) Therefore, the defendant’s damages were reduced by 20%.
As shown by the damages reduction above, if your injuries weren’t worsened by your lack of seatbelt, you can still claim full damages for your injuries.
So, if you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault (even if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt – tut, tut!), contact our team of expert personal injury solicitors in Preston so that we can help you to get the compensation you deserve.
Our team won’t charge you a penny for dealing with your claim, so you don’t have to worry about making upfront payments, and all of our personal injury compensation claims are dealt with on a “No Win, No Fee” basis. That means that there’s no risk guaranteed to you!
You can contact your local office, here, to discuss your claim, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, fill out our online enquiries form, here, and a member of our personal injury team will be back in contact with you asap.
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