The Personal Injury Blog

Buckle up or receive less compensation

Believe it or not, some people still drive or travel in cars or other vehicles without wearing a seatbelt.  Failure to wear a seatbelt at the time of a road traffic accident can have the effect of reducing an injured person’s compensation due to the concept in law known as contributory negligence.

There are two aspects to a claimant’s possible contributory negligence: one view is that if it hadn’t been for the other person’s negligent driving, the accident would never have happened and the Claimant would not have been injured at all; the opposing argument is that if the Claimant had worn a seat belt, then his or her injuries would not have been as serious as they turned out to be, or they wouldn’t have been injured at all.

The Law

The law of contributory negligence arising from the failure to wear seat belts was developed in the case of Froom v Butcher in 1976.  The driver of a vehicle was not wearing his seatbelt (which was much more common in the 70s!) and suffered head and chest injuries in a collision caused by the negligence of  the other driver.

The Judge in that case was the late Lord Denning who stated, “Everyone knows, or ought to know, that when he goes out in a car he should fasten the seatbelt” and went on to make a deduction of 25% from the Claimant’s damages on the basis that the injuries would have been less severe if a belt had been worn.

Since that case, the government has made the wearing of seatbelts compulsory. It is a criminal offence, carrying a fine of up to £500.00, if you are found not to be wearing a seatbelt whilst travelling in a motorised vehicle.

How the contributory negligence law works:

The law around cases involving failure to wear a seatbelt broadly works like this:-

  • Where the injury would have been prevented altogether by the wearing of the belt, it is suggested that damages should be reduced by up to 25 per cent. Another way of saying this is that the injured person would be found 25% contributorily negligent.
  • Where the injury would have been significantly less severe if a belt had been worn, it is suggested that the damages should be reduced by 15 per cent (or the claimant held to be 15% contributorily negligent)
  • Where the injury would not have been prevented, the damages will not be reduced (no contributory negligence).

For further information or if you would like to discuss a personal injury claim, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0114 218 4000 or email

Jonathan Stittle

Jonathan Stittle, head of our personal injury department, joined Taylor&Emmet in 1986 and became a partner a year later. He studied law in Oxford and Chester and has been a member of the Law Society’s personal injury panel since it was formed in 1994. For more information on this topic email or call him on 0114 218 4049.

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