We all know that seat belts are an essential safety tool. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017 alone. Wearing a seat belt is not only wise, but it’s also required by New York law. The law requires that all drivers and front-seat passengers wear seat belts. In addition, children under the age of 16 are required to wear belts regardless of where they are sitting in the car. However, if you were an adult passenger in the back seat of a vehicle, you are not required to wear a belt.
If you’re not wearing a seat belt, you can be seriously injured in an accident. But what if your accident was the result of a negligent driver? Will not wearing a seat belt prevent you from being compensated for your injuries? The answers are complicated.
Seat Belt Defense
A negligent driver has the right to argue as a defense in a case that the victim could have prevented or mitigated their injuries if they had been wearing a seat belt. This is called the seat belt defense, and it’s frequently used by at-fault drivers even if the passenger in the vehicle was not required by law to wear a seat belt. However, the fact that you weren’t wearing a belt at the time of the accident does not necessarily mean that you won’t receive any compensation for your injuries.
Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, a victim is not prevented from recovering damages in a personal injury case even if they are partially responsible for their own injuries. The amount a victim will recover will be lowered in proportion to the amount they are found at fault. If, for example, a jury determines that a victim has sustained $100,000 in damages but was 30% at fault for their own injuries as a result of not wearing a belt, the victim may recover $70,000 from the responsible party. Therefore, while failing to wear a belt may not be the best choice, it also may not be a complete bar to recovery for your injuries.
Contact a Trusted Car Accident Attorney
If you were injured in a car accident, you should have an experienced car accident attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience representing car accident victims. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.