Friday Florida Law Update- The Seatbelt Defense

TGIF all!  Before you get on home for the weekend, here is your Florida law update.  It was a tough week to find a water cooler case in Florida’s appellate courts, so my apologies in advance. 

The case involves the “seat belt defense,” which allows a defendant in a car accident case to shift blame to the plaintiff if the plaintiff was not using their seat belt at the time of the accident.  In Russell v. Beddow, 2011 WL 3558154 (Fla. 1st DCA August 15, 2011), Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reversed in part a verdict assigning 35% of the blame to Plaintiff Russell for failing to use her seat belt at the time of her rear end collision by the defendant.  The 35% assignment of fault diminished her damage claim by the same total.

On appeal, the First DCA held that Defendant did not meet her burden of proof on the seat belt defense, which in most cases requires the movant to prove, by expert testimony, that failure to use a seat belt was the cause of the injury complained of.  In this case, Plaintiff complained of a herniated disc.  The appellate court held that a lay jury is incapable of determining whether or not the plaintiff still would have sustained a herniated disc even if she had been wearing a seat belt. 

Assignment of fault is a huge issue, especially in a clear cut liability case such as this one (rear end collision).  It appears the court got this one right and it was surprising to see the defense go to trial without an expert on this issue.


DISCLAIMER:  This blog is written for entertainment purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does it constitute legal advice. 

Explore posts in the same categories: Florida Law Updates

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