Among other things, you need to sort out your vehicle, notify your insurance company and get any injuries looked at by your GP or at the hospital.
These are all things you must do as soon as possible after an accident.
Later, you may wish to consider whether to make a claim for your personal injuries and other losses from the accident.
We often get enquiries from people who have been injured but are concerned that they have blown their chances of claiming. How are your prospects affected if you did not have your seatbelt on in the accident? Are you prevented from claiming successfully for personal injury compensation?
It is still possible to claim
It’s important to tell your solicitor about it and the other side will need to know too. In most cases, your medical records will be examined at some point and they will contain reference to whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt – either from your own answers to questions in Accident & Emergency or from observations by paramedics at the scene of the accident.
The legal term here is “contributory negligence”. Where failure to wear a seatbelt is the issue, the contribution of the conduct is to the injuries; it is not to the accident itself.
You may lose a percentage of your compensation
The law on contributory negligence in seatbelt cases dates from 1976 and a court decision in which the main opinion came from one of the most famous judges of the 20th century, Lord Denning.
His explanation of the law in the case of Froom –v- Butcher has come under attack at times in later years but it still represents the law 40 years on.
What it says is that, if you would have avoided injury completely by wearing a seatbelt, you should lose 25% of your compensation. In other words, even if a seatbelt would have left you injury-free in the circumstances, in failing to wear a seatbelt, you can still receive 75% of the value of your claim. And that’s the “worst case” example.
If the severity of your injuries would have been reduced by wearing a seatbelt, the deduction is 15%.
If wearing your seatbelt would have made no difference at all to the extent of your injuries, you may get a nil deduction from your award.
There may be no deduction at all
This is where a specialist and experienced personal injury solicitor can help you.
They can argue on your behalf to get the deduction reduced using medical records and reports, and, if necessary, an engineer’s report.
These deductions exist to encourage vehicle occupants to wear seatbelts, to reduce the severity of injuries in some circumstances.
But, if you had an accident and you were not wearing a seatbelt, do not think this prevents you from making a personal injury claim.
As we hope you can see from the above, addressing the question “If I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt can I still make a personal injury claim?”, the answer is “yes” and the worst case is likely to be a reduction in your compensation of 25%.
How we can help
You can also refer to the Road Traffic Accidents page on this website.
We will be delighted to help you. There is no charge for initial telephone discussions.