It’s easy enough to happen: you’re only going down the road to get some milk or eggs or gas, and you don’t bother to buckle your seatbelt. Or perhaps the seatbelt is caught between the seats, and you’re only going a short distance after all. Everyone knows they shouldn’t, but no one thinks they’ll end up in an accident, or that anything serious can happen five minutes from home.
No matter how you justify your excuse, not taking the time to buckle up is never worth it. Accidents happen and it only takes one distracted driver to find yourself in our office. One time forgetting your seatbelt can mean you bear some of the major costs of your injury, even if you had nothing to do with the collision.
We all know how important wearing a seatbelt is for our health and safety, not to mention the fact that it is the law in Newfoundland and Labrador; however, most people are not aware that if you are injured in a collision and not wearing a seatbelt, your damage award could be reduced by, at a minimum, 25% as a result of the Automobile Insurance Act.
Imagine if you lose $100,000.00 in wages because of a distracted driver rear-ending you while you’re stopped at a red light. Now imagine having to face the fact that your decision to not buckle up can reduce your recovery of lost wages by $25,000.00.
The rationale for this reduction is based on the legal principle of contributory negligence: a person who acts in an unreasonable or imprudent manner, which contributes in either kind or extent of their injury, must be held proportionately responsible for their loss. Not wearing your seatbelt has no bearing on whether or not the accident would have occurred, but it is not uncommon for your injuries to be worse as a result of the failure to wear a seatbelt.
A court may even decide that your failure to buckle up makes you more than 25% responsible for your injuries. However, if the lack of seatbelt contributed to the injuries in any capacity, the law dictates that a 25% reduction in recovery is the minimum.
Our team of personal injury lawyers is experienced and prepared to fight to prove that the failure to wear a seatbelt did not contribute to your injury in the event you find yourself in that dispute. However, the complexity of proving this can result in delays and require expert evidence in your favour – even if you are only going to get some milk or eggs or gas, it is always a better decision to buckle up and get everything that you are entitled to.
Drive safe, buckle up, and if you find yourself the unfortunate victim of a negligent driver, make it our fight.