Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car accident claims. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue monetary damages from negligent drivers. It also doesn’t mean you can’t be held responsible (at least partly) for your own injuries. The seat belt defense is a good example of the latter, as our Broward car accident lawyers can explain.
Let’s start with the fact that with very few exceptions, seat belts are required by Florida law for all drivers and passengers in motor vehicles.
Florida’s no-fault car insurance law holds that all vehicle owners must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage that provides up to $10,000 in compensation for any insureds injured in a crash with that vehicle – regardless of who was at-fault in causing the crash. An injured person can step outside the state’s no-fault PIP system and pursue a claim for additional monetary damages against any at-fault parties IF their injuries meet the serious injury threshold. As set forth in F.S. 627.737, they must prove their injuries – caused by the crash for which the defendant is responsible – resulted in significant/permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, significant/permanent scarring/disfigurement or death.
It’s worth noting that Florida is recognized as a pure comparative fault state when it comes to negligence claims. Per F.S. 768.81, that means each person/entity can only be held legally responsible to pay for the damages they caused. So for example, if one suffers $100,000 in damages and Defendant A is responsible for 40 percent and Defendant B is responsible for 60 percent, Defendant A will be ordered to pay $40,000 and Defendant B will be ordered to pay $60,000.
But what if one of the people responsible for a plaintiff’s injuries is the plaintiff themself? That is what we call contributory negligence. By way of their own negligence, they contributed to their own injuries. So if you suffered $100,000 in damages – but are 20 percent responsible for your own injuries – the most you can expect to be awarded is $80,000.
That brings us to the seat belt defense. Continue reading