The importance of wearing seat belts cannot be overstated. Seat belts can save lives and prevent serious personal injuries.
In Ontario, wearing a seat belt is the law. Adults in Ontario who are caught not wearing a seat belt can be subject to charges and fines under the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8 [“the HTA”]. In the case of children caught not wearing a seat belt, a parent or adult in the motor vehicle can be charged under the HTA. The law applies equally whether one is a driver or a passenger. Fines for failing to wear a seat belt range between $200.00 and $1,000.00, as per section 106 (8.3) of the HTA:
(8.3) Every person who contravenes or fails to comply with this section or a regulation made under this section is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $1,000. 2009, c. 5, s. 37.
The failure to wear a seat belt can also have serious consequences for one’s personal injury lawsuit. Although one’s health ought to take priority over legal proceedings, victims of car accidents should know that failing to wear a seat belt can negatively impact the value of their personal injury claim. This is because of “contributory negligence”. In brief and general terms, “contributory negligence” means that an injured Plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced when said Plaintiff is partly to blame for his or her own losses.
The financial impact of contributory negligence can be significant. Exactly how much one’s damages will be reduced by contributory negligence is driven heavily by the facts of each case. However, when a Plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent due to not wearing a seat belt, damages are commonly reduced by at least 5% to 10%.
Prospective Plaintiffs might not consider a reduction of “only” 5% to 10% troubling. However, small percentages can make a big difference when a claim has significant value. For example, in some extremely serious personal injury cases, where value can be assessed at $1 million dollars or more, a reduction of “only” 5% amounts to a reduction of $50,000.00, at a minimum! At times, a Court can reduce a Plaintiff’s damages by as much as 25% for failing to wear a seat belt, as outlined by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case of Snushall v. Fulsang,  O.J. No. 4069, 2005 CanLII 34561 (ON CA).
Wearing a seat belt is extremely important. The health and safety benefits alone make wearing a seat belt a wise decision. Less obvious to the common motorist, however, is that wearing a seat belt can safeguard the value of a personal injury claim by thousands of dollars. Next time you get into a motor vehicle, be sure to buckle up!
If you or a loved one have sustained an injury and would like more information about your legal options, we can help. Call the Jasmine Daya & Co. team at (416) 967-9100 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.