Seat belt use has long been known to reduce the risk of being killed in a car accident. It has also been proven to reduce the severity of injuries a victim sustains in an accident. In order to promote seat belt usage across the state, Florida enacted a law enabling stricter enforcement of its seat belt law in 2009. This law protects road users by increasing the odds of seat belt usage across the state.
When accidents do occur, injury victims have the legal right to be compensated for their injuries and financial losses. Consult with a Seminole County car accident attorney as soon as possible after any accident in order to protect your legal rights as an injury victim.
Understanding the New Seat Belt Law in Florida
In order to understand seat belt usage, it is important to understand the manner in which seat belt laws are enforced. A seat belt violation can be either a primary offense or a secondary offense. In states in which lack of seat belt use is a primary offense, a driver may be stopped for failing to wear his or her seat belt.
But in states that designate seat belt violations as a secondary offense, a driver cannot be stopped only for a seat belt violation. An officer must first witness another violation (such as improper signalling or running a red light). Then, the driver may be stopped and cited for the seat belt violation, as well.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that seat belt use is lower in states with secondary seat belt enforcement laws than in those states with primary seat belt enforcement laws. Because of this, many states are enacting primary enforcement laws in order to increase seat belt use on the road.
Florida followed this trend. According to the Florida Department of Transportation, the first adult seat belt law in Florida became effective on July 1, 1986. This was a secondary enforcement law which did not enable law enforcement officers to stop drivers solely for seat belt violations. Seat belt usage rates fluctuated across Florida during this time. In response, primary enforcement became a legislative priority. The spring of 2009 saw the state legislature pass a primary enforcement bill, which was signed into law by the Governor.
As of June 30, 2009, seat belt violations are now a primary offense throughout the State of Florida.
How Does Seat Belt Use Affect Compensation for Injury Victims?
Seat belt use is not only important in order to reduce the risk of death, and the severity of injuries sustained in a car accident. It is also an important step toward protecting an injury victim’s right to compensation. Florida law allows victims to recover compensation for that portion of damages which a defendant caused. Thus, if a victim’s own negligence contributed to his or her injuries, the defendant will not be obligated to pay for that portion of the damage caused.
Insurance companies often use this rule to their advantage. If they can convince a jury that the victim was negligent by failing to wear a seat belt, their insured driver will not be required to pay for that portion of damages which was caused by the lack of seat belt use. This does not, however, excuse the defendant from paying any damages whatsoever.
Seat belts may prevent some injuries, but just because you weren't wearing one doesn't mean you can't recover. You still have rights, and a Seminole County car accident attorney can help you pursue the compensation you need and deserve. The Law Offices of Scott M. Miller, P.A. has fought and won for people who were injured while not wearing seat belts, and we would be happy to explain your rights in a free consultation.