A guide to making a No Win No Fee road accidents without a seatbelt claim
If an injured driver or passenger was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident, making a road traffic accident claim can be complex.
It is usually still possible to make a claim, but the amount of compensation that the Claimant receives may be reduced.
The outcome of the claim and the calculation of the compensation amount rests on a key question: would the injuries have been the same if a seatbelt had been worn?
What is the law regarding seatbelt use?
In the UK, drivers and passengers are required by law to wear seatbelts? although there are exceptions, such as when reversing. A driver also has responsibility for ensuring any passenger under the age of 14 is wearing a seatbelt.
How is liability apportioned in these types of claims?
Deciding who is liable in these types of cases is not clear cut. Both parties, the Claimant and the Defendant, may have been negligent to an extent.
Under common law, all drivers have a duty to exercise due care towards other road users. If another driver has breached this duty of care, and caused an accident, they are likely to be negligent.
The negligent driver would therefore be liable to pay compensation to other parties injured in the accident. This liability exists regardless of whether the other parties were wearing a seatbelt.
If the Claimant was not wearing a seatbelt, the Defendant could argue contributory negligence'.
A defence of contributory negligence alleges that the Claimant contributed to either the accident or the severity of their injuries.
In this case specifically, the Defendant is not arguing that the Claimant helped to cause the accident. Instead, the Defendant is arguing that, by not wearing a seatbelt, the Claimant caused their injuries to be more severe.This applies to any type of injury, from whiplash to spinal damage.
According to the Road Safety Observatory, seatbelts are 45% effective at preventing serious injuries and 25% effective at preventing minor injuries in drivers.
These figures support a Defendant's argument for contributory negligence'. Using a range of medical and other expert opinion, the Defendant's solicitor will argue that if the Claimant had worn a seatbelt, they would have suffered less serious injuries.
How is the amount of compensation decided?
If it is decided that not wearing a seatbelt had no impact on the extent of the Claimant's injuries, the Claimant should receive the full compensation amount for those injuries.
However, if it is demonstrated that not wearing a seatbelt did impact of the extent of the Claimant's injuries, the Claimant will be held partly responsible under contributory negligence'. A percentage of the total compensation amount will then be deducted.
As set out in the case of Froom v Butcher (1975), the amount deducted will depend on how significant a role the seatbelt would have played in preventing the injuries sustained, as follows:
- If no, or virtually no, injuries would have been sustained if a seatbelt had been worn, 25 per cent will be deducted
- If the injuries would have been less severe if a seatbelt had been worn, 15 per cent will be deducted