It is widely accepted that seat belts can help prevent or reduce injury in the event of a car accident. Further, wearing a seat belt while driving or riding in a vehicle is mandatory across Canada, and failing to do so is considered a punishable offence. Consequently, there are some important facts to be aware of if you are ever involved a car accident and you are not wearing your seat belt.
What is Contributory Negligence?
“Contributory negligence” is a term that is often associated with personal injury claims. Essentially, it means that the injured party is in some way responsible for their own injuries due to negligence.
For example, a pedestrian who is struck by a car while crossing the street may be found to be partially at fault for his own injuries if he did not check the traffic before attempting to cross the road.
In many personal injury cases, a court may decide that the person making the claim has in some way contributed to their own injuries, and adjust the amount of the claim accordingly. For example, if someone is making a claim worth $100 000, but it is determined that contributory negligence is 25%, the claimant would only be entitled to receive $75 000 instead of the full amount.
It is fair to assume that when someone is in a car accident and not wearing their seat belt, contributory negligence may come into play. That is, the court may determine that if the injured party had been wearing a seat belt, their injuries likely would have been lessened or prevented.
The question then becomes: to what degree is the injured party responsible for their own injuries due to negligence?
The Ontario Court of Appeal has provided some standard guidelines that can help answer this question. They have determined that the range for contributory negligence in these cases should be from 0 to 25 per cent.
Therefore, depending on the extent to which a jury believes a claimant’s injuries could have been prevented by wearing a seat belt, they can determine the contributory negligence to be as high as 25 per cent. The claimant’s overall damages could then be reduced by as much as 25 per cent. The 25 per cent is not mandatory. It could be a lesser percentage.
If you or someone you know has been in an Ottawa accident where you were not wearing a seat belt, you should consult a personal injury lawyer, who can further help you understand the legal implications of your accident.
To speak with an Ottawa personal injury lawyer at Auger Hollingsworth, please call us at +1 (613) 233-4529, email us at [email protected], or use our contact form.