In this guide, you will learn all about Florida Seat Belt Laws from a car accident lawyer. You will learn who must wear a seat belt, the exceptions, the penalty for not wearing one, and how not wearing one affects personal injury lawsuits.

Florida Seat Belt Statute Applies to Most Cars and Trucks

Section 316.614 of the Florida statutes governs the use of seat belts. The statute applies to motor vehicles, but it does not include school buses, transportation buses, farm tractors, trucks larger than 26,000 pounds, a motorcycle, mopeds, bicycles, or electric bicycles. Basically, this means the statute applies to most consumer cars, crossover vehicles, SUV’s and pickup trucks. The statute defines a seat belt as a safety belt.

Florida Seat Belt Laws for Front Seats

If you are in the front seat, you are required to wear a seatbelt at all times when the vehicle is moving. This means that the driver of the vehicle and the front seat passenger must buckle up. Because this is a primary offense, law enforcement can pull someone over for not wearing a seat belt even if they were not violating any other traffic laws.

Florida Seat Belt Laws for Back Seats

In the back seat, only minors under the age of 18 must wear a seat belt. This means that a person who is 18 years or older does not have to wear a seat belt. This part of the law makes absolutely no sense. People do not become magically safe riding in the back seat of a vehicle without a seat belt when they turn 18. In fact, riding in the back seat without a seat belt is just as dangerous as riding in the front seat without a seat belt.

But the legislature of the state of Florida does not seem to care about this safety issue. Instead, the legislature seems to be giving adults the personal choice of whether to risk their lives by not wearing a seat belt in the back seat. Why this personal choice applies to the back seat but not the front seat is a real mystery.

Exceptions to the Florida Seat Belt Law

The first exception to wearing a seat belt involves a medical exception. To have this exception apply a medical doctor must certify the person has a medical condition that causes the use of a safety belt to be inappropriate or dangerous. It’s hard to believe that any physician would make such a certification except in a few rare circumstances.

The second exception involves an employee of a newspaper home delivery service while delivering newspapers on home delivery routes. This exception seems to be an outdated reference to a time when it was common for people to have a printed newspaper delivered to their house. In the internet age, this exception also seems very rare.

The last exception involves solid waste employees, recyclable collection service employees, and postal service employees. These exceptions certainly make sense because all of them are driving slowly in neighborhoods and getting in and out of their vehicles.

How Does the Law Affect a Personal Injury Car Accident Case

The statute states that not wearing a seat belt is evidence of negligence. This means a jury in Florida can consider whether not wearing a seat belt was negligent and whether the failure to wear a seat belt caused or substantially contributed to injury.

If the answer is yes to both of these questions, the jury can assign a percentage of negligence to the person making the personal injury claim. The person’s recovery would then be reduced by the percentage of negligence assigned to them.

Furthermore, if the jury assigns more than 50% of negligence to the injured person, the person gets no recovery at all.

Evidence of Negligence

The reason not using a seat belt is only evidence of negligence and not automatically negligence is that there may be certain times when a reasonable person would not wear a seat belt. For example, if the seat belt is broken the jury can consider this fact and determine it was not negligent to not wear it. Of course, if it was broken for a long time, this argument may not be persuasive to a jury.

This exact circumstance came up in the case of Jones v. Alayon. In that case, a coin got stuck in the seat belt locking mechanism. The court held the defendant did not have the burden of proving the seat belt was operational. Instead, the court allowed the seat belt evidence to be admitted and the jury was told that not wearing the seat belt was evidence of negligence. However, the court also allowed the injured person to argue to the jury it was not negligent to not wear the seat belt in this particular case because the seat belt was not working.

Apparently, the coin in the seat belt was discovered over the weekend and the plan was to get it fixed later in the week. Unfortunately, the crash happened before it could be fixed. The court concluded it was up to a jury to weigh this evidence and decide whether any fault should be assigned to the injured person and if so what percentage of fault should be assigned.

Failure to Wear a Seat Belt Must Contribute to the Injury

It’s not good enough for the defense to show that someone was not wearing a seat belt. To get this evidence admitted into evidence, the defense must show that the failure to wear a seat belt caused or substantially contributed to the person’s injury. For example, in Co & Clo Miami Catering, Inc. v. Chapman, the defendant claimed the injured person’s injury happened before the car accident in an unrelated event. The defendant did not introduce any evidence that the failure to wear the seat belt caused the injury or even that it made the injury worse.

The court held the failure to produce any evidence that the failure to wear a seat belt caused or contributed to injury barred the defendant from introducing any evidence about the seat belt to the jury.

Other circumstances where the failure to prove causation will bar introducing evidence of not wearing a seat belt involve when the injury would have happened even if the person wore the seat belt or when a jury is not educated enough to know one way or the other if wearing a seat belt would have made a difference. In State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. v. Smith, the person sustained a back injury after being “thrown around in the car”. The court pointed out that when someone is thrown outside the car and sustains a severe traumatic injury, a jury can figure out on its own without expert testimony that such an injury was caused by the failure to wear a seat belt. However, when a person’s back is injured because they are thrown about in the car, a jury does not have enough education and training to decide if the back injury would have happened even if the seat belt was worn. Therefore, in most instances, in order to present the seat belt defense, the defendant must introduce expert testimony that the failure to wear the seat belt caused or substantially contributed to the injury.

If you have questions about seat belts or anything related to a recent car accident call Distasio Law Firm at our offices in Tampa, Wesley Chapel, or Largo.


Our main office is here in Downtown Tampa, Florida in the Channelside neighborhood. Office in Wesley Chapel and Largo are available by appointment only.

Distasio Law Firm