As an Ottawa personal injury lawyer, I sometimes see cases where my own client was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. If you were injured in an Ontario car accident and were not wearing a seat belt, you may wonder what effect it will have on your claim for damages. The answer is that it will reduce your damages anywhere from 0 to 25% on the basis that you were contributorily negligent.
The leading case on this issue was decided by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2005. The following passage explains what a trial judge should say to a jury deciding a case where the injured victim was not wearing a seat belt
It would be preferable 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 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%, is useful additional guidance for the jury.
In other words, in the vast majority of cases, it is still worthwhile to pursue a claim for damages for your injuries even if you did not have a seat belt on. If you would like to discuss your claim for damages after a motor vehicle accident, contact us at [email protected]