Though there are other famous public information campaigns dating from the 1970s, seatbelt laws did not come into force in the UK until 1983.
Regulations for children to wear seatbelts followed in 1989 and then for seatbelts in the rear seats in 1991.
It took a while for many people to wear seatbelts regularly but now it has become the accepted norm for anyone getting into a motor vehicle. Most car manufacturers install alarm systems to alert the occupants when a seatbelt is not engaged and the vehicle is in motion.
In spite of the rules, there are still some people who will not willingly wear a seatbelt and there are in fact exemptions for certain people.
You will still have a claim but your compensation will be reduced
If you are unfortunate enough to have suffered injury in an accident whilst not wearing your seatbelt, you will probably still be able to make a claim for personal injury. The down side is that there may well be a deduction in the amount of money you receive.
By failing to wear a seatbelt, the law takes the view that you have contributed to your injuries – which is known as Contributory Negligence. This lack of care on your part means that you have been injured where a seatbelt would either have prevented your injuries completely or at least lessened their extent. How much of your compensation will you lose?
Three basic scenarios for calculating the percentage reduction
Froom v Butcher – a case dating from 1975 – is the precedent for the law on contributory negligence in seatbelt cases. Attempts have been made in the interim to make the law take a harder line on non-seatbelt-wearers but these have always been unsuccessful. Judges seem to accept that the safety issues were as well understood in the 1970s as they are today.
Lord Denning, in Froom, set out three main fact situations:-
•Firstly, if your injuries would have been prevented if you had been wearing a seatbelt, your damages will be reduced by 25%;
•Secondly, if your injuries were made worse by not wearing a seatbelt, the reduction is 15%;
•Thirdly, if wearing a seatbelt would have made no difference to the severity of the injuries, there is no deduction (0%).
Why contributory negligence is best addressed using a specialist solicitor
A specialist solicitor will be able to employ expert medical evidence to help determine what, if any, deduction should be accepted for contributory negligence in relation to your personal injury claim. The risk is that, without this help, you will be vulnerable to the third party’s insurers persuading you to accept a 25% reduction (or worse).
Accordingly, if you have been injured in a road accident which was due to the fault of another and you were not wearing a seatbelt, you would be best advised to consult a specialist personal injury solicitor.
Contact us for help
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