Seatbelts from a Personal Injury Perspective
Failing to wear a seatbelt can result in a number of adverse legal consequences, including:
1) Your being charged under the Highway Traffic Act, for failing to wear a seatbelt; and
2) If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, failing to wear a seatbelt may result in you not being fully compensated for your injuries.
Contributory negligence is a concept in negligence law that sees the injured party bearing some responsibility for the injuries they have suffered. If an injured party is found to be contributorily negligent (partially at fault) a Court will reduce any damage award (monetary compensation) the injured party may be entitled to by a percentage corresponding with the party’s contributory negligence.
A fairly common example of contributory negligence is failing to wear a seatbelt.
If you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of a car accident, and it can be shown that your failure to do so caused an injury or increased the severity of an injury, your damages will be reduced.
The standard range for a reduction for contributory negligence as a result of failing to wear a seatbelt is 5-25%. The vast majority of caselaw outside Prince Edward Island shows that 25% is a hard cap and discounting damages more than 25% solely because of failure to wear a seatbelt would be unreasonable. However, in Boertien v. Carter (1995), 135 Nfld. & PEIR 91 (PEISCTD) (WL) Justice Jenkins, as he then was, preferred using the 25% as a guideline, and found that the level of contributory negligence should be ascertained on a case by case basis, which in some cases may be above 25%. The cap question has yet to be definitively answered in Prince Edward Island as in Boertien v. Carter, Justice Jenkins found the plaintiff 20% liable and the cap question was not directly at issue.
Where in the 5-25% range the failure to where a seatbelt falls will depend on the facts of the case, and the degree to which the failure to wear a seatbelt caused or contributed to the injured party’s injuries. Additionally, adding in other contributory negligent actions or omissions, such as driving while impaired, driving while improperly situated within the vehicle, or engaging in other reckless behaviour that may have caused or contributed to the collision or worsening of the injuries sustained, may result in increasing the percentage of contributory negligence.
Whether or not failing to where a seatbelt is an issue in your personal injury matter, please remember all cases are different and the facts of each case will determine the presence and extent of any contributory negligence. If you are injured in a motor vehicle collision or otherwise, one of Key Murray Law’s Personal Injury lawyers will be pleased to offer you a no-charge initial consultation to talk about your case and any compensation you may be entitled to.
Richard A. Collier
Legal information appearing in this article and elsewhere on Key Murray Law’s website is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for or replace any legal or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require legal advice, you should consult directly with one of our lawyers.