When someone hits you from behind because they weren’t paying attention to the road or sideswipes you because they ran a stoplight, you have every reason to say they’re responsible for the wreck and ask for fair compensation for your losses.
So, why is the other party alleging that you’re partially responsible for your own injuries simply because you didn’t have your seatbelt latched?
It all comes down to the apportionment of fault and damages
Every state tries to divide the responsibility for losses in an accident in a way that is fair, but they all do it a bit differently. Florida uses what is called a “pure comparative negligence” system to apportion fault between the parties to an injury claim. Under this kind of system, plaintiffs aren’t barred from recovery if they’re partially at fault for their losses – but any negligence on their part can be used to reduce the damages they can recover.
The reason it matters whether you were wearing your seatbelt at the time of the wreck is that seatbelts are specifically designed to prevent or reduce injuries in a crash. While the other driver may be 100% responsible for the wreck itself, they may allege that their liability should be mitigated because you didn’t do your part by buckling up.
By asserting comparative negligence as a type of defense, the other driver (or their insurer) hopes to reduce what they have to pay. For example, if your losses were worth $100,000 but the court says that your injuries were 40% worse because you didn’t have your seatbelt on, the other party would only have to pay $60,000.
What’s the takeaway here? Ultimately, you want to both keep your seatbelt on when you’re driving and be very judicious about discussing the particulars of your case without experienced legal guidance so that you don’t say anything that could later be twisted against you.