Not Wearing a Seatbelt During a Car Accident. Can I Still Sue?

Wearing a seatbelt when you are the driver or the occupant of any vehicle is the best way to minimize the chance of injuries in an accident. But what if you were not strapped in during a collision? Can you still sue the at-fault driver?

The answer is yes, though you will not receive as much as you would have if you had a seatbelt on. This is because courts are allowed to reduce any award amount based on your shared responsibility for the crash. How much you are at fault will affect the compensation you receive.

For instance, if the court awards you $140,000 for damages but you are found to be 20 per cent responsible, your compensation would be reduced by $28,000.

Alberta’s Contributory Negligence Act helps determine what degree of  fault you should be apportioned in Alberta. In addition, Alberta's Traffic Safety Act provides some guidance on finding liability while not stripping away common law rights to sue after a motor vehicle accident.

What is Contributory Negligence?

An Alberta Court of Appeal decision sums it up this way: “Contributory negligence is a plaintiff’s failure to meet the standard of care to which he is required to conform for his own protection and which is a legally contributing cause, together with the defendant’s default, in bringing about his injury … failure on the part of the person injured to take reasonable care of himself in his own interest.”

Other actions that could be considered contributory negligence include travelling at an excessive rate of speed, being on the phone or otherwise distracted, not having your headlights on or failing to manoeuvre a vehicle in a manner to avoid a collision.

How Much Will the Court Deduct Due to my Contributory Negligence?

The judge will look at all the factors involved in an accident before deciding on the percentage of contributory negligence. A Supreme Court of Canadadecision notes that courts have “consistently deducted from 5 to 25 percent from claims for damages for personal injury on the grounds that the victims were contributorily negligent for not wearing their seatbelts. This has been done whenever it has been demonstrated that the injuries would have been reduced if the belts had in fact been worn.”

What is Alberta’s Seatbelt Law?

Drivers and passengers in any motor vehicle in the province are legally required to wear a seatbelt. It is the driver's responsibility to ensure children aged six to 15 (or children younger than six who weigh more than 18 kg/40 lbs) are wearing a seatbelt. Seatbelts cannot be removed from the vehicle or modified.

Exceptions include: vehicles not designed or equipped with seatbelt assemblies by their manufacturers; autos being used to make deliveries driven at 40 km/hr or less; vehicles in an authorized municipal parade; and if a person has a letter from a qualified medical practitioner certifying they cannot use a seatbelt for medical reasons.

When Did Alberta Mandate the Wearing of Seatbelts?

Alberta’s mandatory seatbelt law came into effect in 1987, 11 years after Ontario became the first province to legislate their use. There were some protests in Alberta against the law at the time, but now, more than 30 years later, most of us don’t give buckling up a second thought.

How Important are Seatbelts?

According to Alberta Transportation, there were 341 unbelted fatalities in Alberta from 2012 to 2016. Alberta RCMP note that “seatbelts are proven to save lives and minimize injuries. Traffic safety is a shared responsibility: buckle up, every single time, whether you're driving to work or just around the block."

What is the Fine For Not Buckling Up?

In 2019, Alberta RCMP issued more than 9,000 tickets to vehicle drivers and passengers for not wearing a seatbelt. There is a $162 fine for not complying with occupant restraint laws. Those on a graduated driving licence will also receive two demerit points if they drive with more passengers than there are seatbelts.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer? The Insurance Company Has Made Me an Offer?

Insurance firms always try to minimize the amount they have to pay out on claims. Their initial offer may seem fair at first glance, but chances are it is below what you deserve. After all, you may have spinal or soft tissue damage that may take months to show up. As your legal counsel, we will consider all of the circumstances surrounding a motor vehicle accident and give you an informed opinion of what the court will likely determine to be your percentage of contributory negligence.


AFTER AN ACCIDENT, CONTACT US

A personal injury lawyer can help guide you through your options and help you obtain the compensation you need to help you recover from any injuries. They can also make sure that your insurance company does not attempt to limit the compensation that you are owed. Schedule your Free Consultation by calling (403) 452-2011 or send a message to kantor@kantorllp.ca. We will represent you on a contingency fee basis, so we do not get paid for our time and attention until we settle.

Kantor LLP Personal Injury
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