Can I still claim compensation if I was not wearing my seat belt?

by Alex Dallimore

Yes is the answer. It is a common misconception that you are not entitled to claim compensation for personal injury if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of a road traffic accident.

In the first instance it is up to the defendant, or their insurer, to prove that you were not wearing a seat belt. If it comes to light that you were not then the insurer may look to make a deduction from the final settlement, but they cannot reject the claim on this basis.

The maximum deduction an insurer can make is 25% (1 quarter of the final settlement) and in order to do this they will still need to prove that the injuries you suffered in the accident were more serious because a seat belt was not being worn. For example - If you were not wearing a seat belt and you injured your head or face on the dashboard or windscreen of a car following a collision, it is likely that the injury would have been less severe or even avoided completely if a seat belt had been worn. In this instance the insurer would be justified in making the maximum deduction from your compensation. However, if you are not wearing a seat belt, you are involved in a collision and you suffer muscular injuries to your neck or back, the likelihood is that you would still have suffered these injuries even with a seat belt on. In this instance the insurers would be less justified in making a deduction of this amount and would perhaps offer to settle the claim with a 15% deduction.

This precedent was set in the case of Froom vs Butcher (1976). The court held that the claimantís damages were to be reduced by 25%, as their failure to wear a seat belt was considered to contribute to their injuries. The formal decision was then made that a deduction of 25% was reasonable when wearing a seat belt would have prevented the injuries, or 15% when there would still have been some injuries but they would have been less severe.

In certain circumstances not wearing a seat belt is necessary, for instance pregnant women travelling in cars, or if you are parked and waiting to exit the vehicle. Situations like this would not be subject to deductions in compensation. However, it is obviously recommended that seat belts are always worn when at all possible from both a health & safety and a claims perspective.

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