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Are you still entitled to compensation if you were not wearing your seatbelt in a car accident?
Yes, you can – but your compensation that is assessed and awarded to you will be reduced because you might have “contributed” to your own injuries – meaning that if your case goes to Court, defense lawyers will contend and argue that your injuries could and would have been less severe had you been wearing a seat-belt. While defending an auto accident case, insurance companies have the legal onus of satisfying a Court or proving that your injuries could have or would have been prevented or lessened had your seat belt been worn.
From a traffic or Provincial Offences standpoint, all Canadian provinces have passed compulsory legislation that requires occupants of a vehicle to wear their seat belt. In Ontario, drivers can be convicted if they or anyone in their vehicle under age 16 is not wearing a seat-belt or secured in a proper child seat. In addition to Provincial Offences, it has long been recognized in Canada that all occupants in a vehicle have a duty to wear their seat belts to ensure their own safety. If you are hurt in car accident in Ontario and initiate a claim for personal injury compensation, the failure to have worn your seat-belt can result in a reduction in your compensation within the range of 0% to as high as 25%!
Normally the upper limit is available only in those cases where a judge or jury is satisfied that substantially all of your injuries and damages could have been prevented by wearing a seat-belt. Where the evidence does not establish that all your injuries would have been effectively prevented, then allocation of reduction in compensation paid to you should be less than the upper imit of 25%.
Another way to think about seat-belt reduction is like this – whenever there is a car accident, the negligent driver (or the driver that caused the accident) must bear by far the greater share of responsibility. It was his or her wrongdoing or negligence which caused the wreck. It also was a prime cause of the whole damage. But insofar as the damage might have been avoided or lessened by wearing a seat belt, you as the the injured person must bear some share of the “responsibility” and it is up to a jury to decide how much. Sometimes the evidence presented at trial will show that the failure to wear a seat-belt made no difference at all. Your injuries would have been the same, even if you would have worn your seat belt. In such cases the compensation should not be reduced at all. At other times, the evidence at trial will show that the failure would have made all the difference in the world – i.e. your injuries would have been prevented altogether if you had worn your seat belt. In such cases, the compensation owned to you for your injuries would be reduced by 25 per cent.
But often enough, trial evidence will only show that the failure made a “considerable difference” to a victim’s injuries. Some injuries to the head, for instance, would have been a good deal less severe if a seat belt had been worn, but there would still have been some injury to the head. Injuries to the arms and shoulders could have occurred regardless of whether or not your seat-belt was worn. In such case damages attributable to the failure to wear a seat belt could be reduced by 15 per cent.
In Canadian car accident cases, the defense of contributory negligence (remember – when a victim contributes negligently to causing his or her own injuries) can be advanced in a wide variety of circumstances. Not uncommonly, an accident victim’s failure to wear a seat-belt is one. You may be found to have failed to take reasonable care for your own safety by not wearing an available seatbelt or by accepting a ride in a vehicle not equipped with seat-belts. If a seat-belt was available but not worn, the evidence must establish that it was operational and your injuries would have been reduced by usage to justify a finding of you being negligent.
Although there is no hard and fast rule as to apportionment in cases involving a successful seat-belt defense, victims in our experience are often held to be 10% to 25% negligent when seat-belts are not worn.
If you have suffered life changing injuries in a vehicle accident, we can help. Matt Lalande has recovered millions for accident victims in Hamilton and the surrounding areas since 2003. We have represented hundreds of car accident victims that have suffered spinal cord injuries, serious brain injuries, orthopedic injuries and fractures, paraplegic and quadriplegic injuries.
I am a local business owner in Burlington and Lalande lawyers has helped us out with employment issues on numerous occasion. They are very helpful and I would recommend them to anyone with employment issues.
Without Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers, I would not have received a successful settlement on the appeal of my denied disability claim. Matt Lalande’s experience, professionalism and knowledge were invaluable throughout the entire process.
I was in a head on wreck and suffered a tibial plateau fracture. Matt settled my case for my a few months back and set me up in such a good way so that I can pay all my education and start fresh in something that can accommodate me. He recently settled my accident benefits when I didn’t even expect much else. Matt is the best. I am so happy that I was referred to him.
My husband was involved in a motor vehicle accident in 2013. He managed to survive the crash yet had serious and multiple injuries to deal with. Luckily, we were directed to our lawyer, Matt Lalande, who took charge of the entire legal process to get my husband fair compensation for all the hurdles he’s faced since.
It’s been a bumpy roller coaster ride to say the least (recurring operations and infections to deal with the injuries sustained, numerous medical appointments, ongoing paperwork, not being able to return to work along with all the uncertainties of not knowing what the future holds…).
Through all of this, Matt and his team helped us navigate the system, kept us informed at all times and gave us options to use in the end.
We are so thankful to Matt and his legal associates for keeping us focused throughout this lengthy process. It takes patience and a great deal of determination to get through these battles and the Lalande team knows how to get it done!
My husband had a slip and fall and was off work for quite a while – Matt got us a settlement that was very generous. Dealing with Matt was an easy process. He kept us well informed along the way and was quickly forthcoming when we asked for updates. This was the first time we had ever been through this process and Matt really did all the heavy lifting for us. We are grateful for his help in this matter.
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