If I don’t wear a seat belt, will I be able to make an accident claim?

One of the laws governing road safety reached a milestone this year: 30 years of enforced seatbelt-wearing. So why are people still unsure about whether they can make a claim if they’re in an accident and they’ve not buckled up?

There is no definitive answer, so dismissiveness of claiming is not that great a surprise. Many people believe that, if they’re involved in an RTA and are not wearing their seatbelt, it could negate any claim to compensation. But it may not be so.

Much of this wrongly-held belief can be attributed to so few people now driving without wearing a seatbelt; hence, accidents involving drivers not buckled up have decreased immensely over the years.

However, it wasn’t always this way. When the law was introduced in 1983, only a third of drivers believed that seatbelts saved lives.

Compare that to a survey undertaken by the AA in the run-up to the seatbelt law’s thirtieth anniversary, which suggests that 95% of drivers now believe that statement, you begin to comprehend the shift in consumer thinking.

What is the seatbelt law, exactly?

Ignorance is no defence when it comes to making an accident claim without a seatbelt.

From the moment you step into the drivers seat on your first lesson until you walk out of the test centre throwing the L plates in the air, you will have been reminded to buckle up by your instructor or examiner.

But how does the law affect passengers?

Most cars now come with seatbelts for every seat in the car. Certainly, every seat in a car that would be covered by insurance has the facility to buckle up. But again, older cars may not have them fitted to all seats.

Therefore, the law states that car occupants travelling in seats that have seatbelts fitted must wear them. Only one person is allowed per belt and children smaller than 135cm or aged 11 and below should have a car seat appropriate for their weight.

On the spot fines of sixty pounds can be imposed for every occupant caught not wearing their seatbelt; this is likely to be a heftier fine (up to £500) should the case go to court.

What will happen in an accident claim court if I’ve not worn my seatbelt?

It can add an element of difficulty, claiming for injury, when you’re not wearing your seatbelt in the case of an accident. However, if the accident’s not your fault, you may still be entitled to compensation of some sort.

What tends to happen is that opposing insurers claim ‘contributory negligence’, i.e. your injuries could have been lessened (or avoided) had you been within the guidelines of the law.

If this theory is upheld, any compensation you would have been entitled to may be lessened as a consequence.

There is, however, an argument that seatbelts themselves can be the cause of injury. We’ll look at that in the next post.

Remember: clunk, click, every trip.

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