For one reason or another people sometimes don’t wear their seat-belts when they are in a car. The failure to wear a seat-belt can sometimes affect your claim for car accident injury damages in a lawsuit. However, sometimes there are legitimate and understandable reasons for not wearing one.
Sometimes the evidence in a lawsuit shows that a seat-belt wouldn’t have made any difference at all – I had a trial last year where the Judge would not even allow the Jury to consider a reduction based on seat-belt, because of the evidence in the trial.
The Courts have not said that the failure to use a seat-belt stops someone from being able to claim. Just because an injured person didn’t do what they should have to safe-guard against someone else’s bad driving, that doesn’t change the fact that the bad driving caused the accident and the injuries.
Instead, our Province allows for a possible reduction of the damages where the injuries could have been prevented or lessened if a seatbelt had been used. Whether the seat-belt would have made a different is a matter of what the evidence shows in Court. Often there are specialized experts retained to consider whether the seat-belt would have made a difference.
The Ontario Court of Appeal, Ontario’s highest Court has said that a person’s damages should be reduced by a maximum of 25% where substantially all of the damages could have been avoided if the seatbelt had been worn. That number could be lower depending on the evidence. This is what the Court had to say about the effect of a failure to wear a seatbelt in a car accident injury lawsuit:
“where contributory negligence is found only for not wearing a seatbelt, its award should fall within a range of 0 percent to 25 percent; that the upper limit of the range, that is 25 percent, is available only in those cases where the jury is satisfied that substantially all the damages could have been prevented by wearing a seatbelt; and that where the evidence does not establish that all the injuries would have been prevented, the allocation should be less. The trial judge’s comment that most cases fall into the lower end of the range, that is between 5 percent and 10 percent is useful additional guidance for the jury.