Compensation awarded in absence of seatbelts
Wearing a seat belt is a legal requirement in the UK since 1983. The law states that all occupants of a vehicle must wear a seat belt if it is fitted, unless they are exempt. The relevant legislation in this area is the Road Traffic Act 1988 and The Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1993.
There are several exceptions to wearing a seat belt, such as passengers on a bus where seat belts are not fitted, drivers of goods vehicles when the distance travelled does not exceed 50 meters, and holders of medical exemption certificates. Children up to 1.35 meters in height or up to 12 years old must wear an appropriate child restraint. The Highway Code also requires all occupants to wear a seat belt in cars, vans, and other goods vehicles if one is fitted. The driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that children under 14 years of age wear a seat belt.
If someone is injured in an accident and was not wearing a seat belt, this may be considered contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is where one driver has been at fault to some extent, but at the same time, the other driver has contributed to the injuries suffered. An example of contributory negligence includes where a driver or passenger becomes injured in an accident, and their injuries were worsened as a result of not wearing a seat belt.
The leading case that deals with contributory negligence in this area is Froom v Butcher  QB 286. In this case, the claimant and passengers were involved in a road traffic accident, none of whom were wearing seat belts. The claimant sustained soft tissue injuries to his rib, chest, and finger. The defendant accepted liability, but contended that the claimant’s damages should be reduced by 25% because he was not wearing a seat belt.
Ultimately, the extent of recoverable compensation will depend upon the nature and extent of injuries sustained. It is essential to disclose the fact that an individual was not wearing a seat belt to the solicitor acting on their behalf. GP records and medical reports are likely to reference the absence of a seat belt.
In summary, wearing a seat belt is a legal requirement in the UK, and there are only a few exceptions to this rule. If someone is injured in an accident and was not wearing a seat belt, this may be considered contributory negligence, which could impact the amount of compensation they receive. It is essential to disclose the fact that an individual was not wearing a seat belt to their solicitor.
Written by Megan McLoney