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Law Matters - Jeff Zilkowsky

Wear seatbelt or lose (big time!)

This is a column that everyone should read…

Car crashes are way TOO common. A crash happens in Kelowna every one hour, which is completely ridiculous.

As a result of these car crashes, people often suffer injuries (and losses), which can lead to lawsuits to recover those losses in court. These losses can include lost shifts at work or the loss of a job (from those injuries). Losses can also include expenses paid for medical treatment and an award for “pain and suffering”. Most people know this...

What most people don’t know is that the injured party can be held responsible for their OWN injuries, even if they DIDN’T cause the car crash! I’ll explain…

Have you ever not worn your seatbelt while driving?

If you don’t wear your seatbelt, you could get a $167.00 fine (section 220 of the Motor Vehicle Act). That ticket is NOTHING though, compared to the losses you could suffer if you are injured in a crash when not wearing your seatbelt…

Here is the law: whether you are a passenger or a driver of a vehicle, you have a duty to take care of your own safety. That includes wearing your seatbelt. If you don’t wear your seatbelt then you won’t get as much money from your lawsuit.

Here’s an illustration: you are stopped in your car at a traffic light and you are rear-ended from behind. Clearly, the crash isn’t your fault. At the time of the crash, you are NOT wearing your seatbelt. As a result of the crash, you suffer some whiplash injuries, causing you to miss several shifts at work and limiting your ability to do housework and play sports. You decide to sue the driver who rear-ended you and you go to trial. At trial, the judge says that you are entitled to $50,000.00 for all of your losses. BUT, the judge also says that, because you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, you are 25% responsible for your injuries. As a result, your award (of $50.000.00) is reduced by 25%, leaving you with $37,500.00.

This concept of being found partly responsible for your own injuries is referred to (in legal circles) as being ‘contributorily negligent’. And, if you ‘contribute’ to your own harm, then your ‘award’ is reduced by the amount that you are found to be at fault. See section 1 of the Negligence Act.

This situation commonly pops-up in seatbelt cases. And, you should also know that it is common for people to be found 25% responsible for their car crash injuries when they weren’t wearing their seatbelts.

Obviously, a 25% reduction (or more!) can result in a HUGE loss to you.

So, don’t be stupid: buckle up.

**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.



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About the Author

Jeff Zilkowsky is a lawyer practicing at MacLean Law in the Lower Mainland and in Kelowna, and focuses his practice on family law and litigation.  

In his column, Jeff provides information about current legal events or points of interest or concern relating to the law. 

The information contained in Jeff’s column should not be used or relied upon as legal advice.

Comments are always appreciated and encouraged, so don’t hesitate to email Jeff at [email protected]

Visit Jeff’s website at www.jeffzilkowsky.com or visit the website of MacLean Law.







The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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