Neglecting to wear a seatbelt could affect the compensation you receive after an accident

Mon 5th Aug 2019

During National Road Victim month, Personal Injury specialist, Toby Konarzewski, explains how failing to wear a seatbelt could affect the compensation you receive if you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident.

Whether you’re the driver or a passenger, wearing a seatbelt has been compulsory under UK law for decades, however, I still see cases where clients involved in a road traffic accident were not wearing their seatbelt. Not only can failing to wear a seatbelt impact the severity of your injuries, it can also affect the amount of compensation you receive if the accident wasn’t your fault.

According to research, the most common excuses for not wearing a seatbelt are for comfort or that the person was only traveling a short distance. A road traffic accident can happen at any time on any length of journey and at any speed. If you are not wearing your seatbelt, accidents that happen at 30mph can throw you forward 30-60 times your body weight. Having your seatbelt fastened correctly will prevent contact with the dashboard or windows and will reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate-to-critical injury by 50%.

Seatbelts are an incredibly important safety feature in vehicles. Reports suggest that wearing a seatbelt saves over 2,000 lives each year and not wearing a seatbelt could double the likelihood of death in a collision. In 2017, one in four people that were killed in a road traffic accident were not wearing a seatbelt.

How much of my compensation will be reduced?

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault but you were not wearing a seatbelt, any compensation you are entitled to could be reduced by up to 25%.

As you neglected to wear a seatbelt, you are contributory negligent and therefore partially responsible for the increased severity of the injuries you sustained. Therefore, the amount of compensation you receive could be reduced. Each case is different and the amount of money deducted depends on your injuries.

If wearing a seatbelt meant that your injuries would have:

  • been avoided – up to 25% of your compensation could be deducted
  • been less serious – up to 15% could be deduced.
  • been the same or worse – no money will be deducted.

However, the court can impose any reduction it considers fair. In some cases, the court will get a medical expert to asses you injuries and determine whether neglecting to wear a seatbelt increased the severity of your injuries.

What is the UK seatbelt law?

It has been a legal requirement for drivers to wear a seatbelt in the UK since 1983. It became compulsory for children and adult passengers sat in the backseat to wear seatbelts individually in 1989 and 1991 respectively.

Under UK law, it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that passengers under the age of 14 are wearing a seatbelt or are fastened correctly in a car/booster seat. Children under the age of 12, or under 1.35 metres in height, must use a booster seat whilst traveling. In the event that a child under 14 years of age was involved in an accident and was not wearing a seatbelt, on in a car seat, the driver would be held responsible. Therefore the child, or their parent/guardian, could claim against the driver.

If you’re caught not wearing a seatbelt you could receive an on-the-spot Fixed Penalty Notice of £100, which could increase to £500 if the case goes to court. This includes drivers and passengers over the age of 14 in a car, bus or taxi where seatbelts are provided.

Are there any exemptions from wearing seatbelts?

There are few instances where you are not required to wear a seatbelt, these include:

  • a driver reversing their car
  • driving a goods or delivery vehicle traveling no more than 50 metres between stops
  • a licenced taxi driver who is ‘plying for hire’ or carrying passengers
  • medical exemptions

Unless you are exempt, you must wear a seatbelt in any vehicle where one is provided. Not only could it save your life, it could also save you losing out on compensation that you are entitled to if the accident wasn’t your fault.

For more information on these issues, please contact the Personal Injury team at Coodes Solicitors for specialist advice on 01326 318900 or info@coodes.co.uk

Mon 5th Aug 2019

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