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5 FAQ: Not Wearing a Seatbelt in a Crash that was not your Fault.

By Matt Lalande in Car Accidents, Hamilton Car Accident Lawyer on July 07, 2023

5 FAQ: Not Wearing a Seatbelt in a Crash that was not your Fault.

5 Quick Faq answered by Our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers

There is no doubt that not wearing a seatbelt during a vehicular accident can result in devastating injuries, many of which could be mitigated or even prevented by buckling up. In a serious accident, the sudden deceleration can cause occupants to be thrown against the interior of the vehicle, or even ejected from it entirely. Such impacts can lead to severe trauma including head and spinal cord injuries, broken bones, internal bleeding, and other life-threatening conditions. Seatbelts, designed to securely restrain occupants and distribute the force of a crash across the stronger parts of the body, significantly reduce the risk of these injuries by preventing ejection and reducing the chance of contact with the vehicle interior. The decision to forgo a seatbelt, therefore, dramatically increases the potential for severe injury in the event of an accident.

The following are 5 quick FAQ or Common Questions often seen by our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers:

1. Can I still start a Car Accident case in Canada if someone else cause the accident but I was not wearing a seatbelt?

Yes, even if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, you can still initiate a personal injury lawsuit in Canada. While not wearing a seatbelt may be considered contributory negligent and may potentially decrease the damages you might be awarded, it does not bar you from filing a lawsuit altogether.

It’s important to remember that each case is unique, and the effect of not wearing a seatbelt will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, including the extent to which your injuries were worsened as a result of not wearing a seatbelt. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer would be beneficial in understanding how these factors might impact your case.

2. What is Contributory Negligence?

In Canadian law, contributory negligence refers to a situation where the person who has suffered an injury or loss (the plaintiff) has, through their own negligence, contributed to the harm they suffered. This means they are partly to blame for the accident or injury.

Contributory negligence is determined on a case-by-case basis and it involves an assessment of the actions of all parties involved in an incident. If it is found that the plaintiff did not take reasonable care for their own safety and well-being, they may be found to be contributory negligent.

In situations where contributory negligence is established, the damages awarded to the plaintiff may be reduced. The extent of the reduction generally corresponds to the degree to which the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to their injuries. For example, if a court determines that a plaintiff was 25% responsible for their own injuries, the damages awarded to them might be reduced by that same percentage.

It’s important to note that the rules around contributory negligence can vary between provinces and territories in Canada, as each jurisdiction has its own laws and legal precedents on the matter. As such, for specific legal advice, one should consult with a legal professional familiar with the laws in their particular jurisdiction.

3. How much can my compensation be reduced by due to not wearing a seatbelt?

Snushall v. Fulsang (2005), 78 O.R. (3d) 142 (Ont. C.A.) is on older Ontario Court of Appeal Case which specifies the maximum percentage that can be attributed for a plaintiff’s contributory negligence for failure to wear a seatbelt in a motor vehicle accident is limited to 25%. It continues to be good law to date.

The accompanying questions is – What if my injuries in a car accident case would not have been prevented by wearing a seatbelt? It would be preferable for our lawyers to instruct the jury that, where contributory negligence is found only for not wearing a seatbelt, its award should fall within a range of 0% to 25%; that the upper limit of the range, that is 25%, is available only in those car accident 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 effectively 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% and 10%.

4. Can seatbelts hurt me more than protect me in a crash?

The overwhelming consensus among safety experts and researchers is that seatbelts significantly increase your safety in a crash. Seatbelts are designed to protect occupants by reducing the risk of being ejected from the vehicle and by distributing the forces of a crash across the stronger parts of the body, such as the chest and pelvis.

However, it’s true that in rare instances, seatbelts can cause certain types of injuries in a crash, known as “seatbelt syndrome.” These can include injuries to the chest, abdomen, or spine, typically as a result of the seatbelt tightening against the body during a collision. It’s also possible for a seatbelt to cause minor injuries like bruises or abrasions.

But it’s important to understand that these injuries are typically far less severe than the injuries you could sustain without a seatbelt. Unbelted occupants are at much greater risk of serious injury or death, particularly due to the risk of being ejected from the vehicle. Ejection during a crash is often fatal.

5. Is it safe to wear a seatbelt if I am pregnant?

Yes, it is not only safe but also crucial for pregnant individuals to wear a seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt significantly reduces the risk of injury or death to both the individual and their unborn child in the event of a car accident.

Many women often wonder if their baby can be hurt by being restrained in a seatbelt during a crash – and experts have weight in that while any car accident can potentially cause injury, the risk to the baby is far greater if a pregnant person is not wearing a seatbelt. The forces experienced by an unrestrained body in a car crash are significantly higher and can lead to serious injuries.

Have you been in a serious accident and have a question about seatbelt use? Our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers can help.

Navigating the aftermath of a complex injury can be terribly overwhelming. Hiring our experienced Hamilton personal injury lawyers is crucial as we can guide you through this challenging process. We bring wealth of expertise and compassion, from understanding the legal landscape in Ontario to accurately evaluating your claim’s worth and adeptly representing your interests. We are experienced in negotiating with insurance companies who often seek to minimize payouts and we can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Since 2003, our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers have recovered tens of millions in compensation in personal injury cases for residents in Hamilton and the surrounding areas. If you have been involved in a serious accident, call us today, no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in Hamilton and throughout Southern Ontario at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can email us confidentially through our website or chat 24/7 with our live chat operator.

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