FAILING TO WEAR A SEAT BELT IS NOT ONLY UNSAFE, IT MAY SINK YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CASE
Drivers and passengers in cars, vans, pick-up trucks and SUVs are required by New Jersey Law to use seat belts. At least those sitting in front.
But say someone who wasn’t wearing a seat belt is injured in a traffic accident. Would that hurt their personal injury case? Even if they weren’t at fault for the accident?
The answer is, “sometimes.”
Failure to wear a seatbelt generally has no bearing on who was at fault. But it might have caused the injuries.
The other driver may claim that the victim’s injuries wouldn’t have occurred, or would have been less severe, had the victim wore a seat belt. If this can be proved, then the amount of damages the victim will receive may be reduced. Or even eliminated.
The other driver must hire an expert to prove that lack of seat belt use caused the victim’s injuries. Usually, that expert will be a medical doctor or an engineer.
Children less than eight, who weigh less than 80 pounds, must be secured by a child restraint system, or a traffic ticket can issue. But, in a personal injury case, failure to do so will generally not hurt the child’s case, as it would for an adult.
It’s not clear whether rear seat passengers can be penalized in a personal injury case for not wearing seat belts. A court decision on that issue may be forthcoming soon.
When in a motor vehicle, you should always wear a seat belt. Failure to do so may be hazardous for your health. And may destroy any chance you have to receive compensation for your injuries if you have an accident.
The law on this issue is somewhat complicated. I have oversimplified it a bit. If you are ever injured in an accident, you should contact a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. Whether or not you were using a seat belt.
You can read here the actual jury instructions that New Jersey Judges give respecting seat belt use.
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