Posted On September 4, 2020 Personal Injury
The first seatbelts began appearing in cars in the 1950s. However, it was not until 1968 that all vehicles in the United States were required to come standard with seatbelts. Since then, seat belts have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Despite the known safety benefits of seatbelts, drivers and passengers routinely fail to buckle up, placing them at an increased risk of severe injury or death. Not only that, but a motorist’s failure to wear a seatbelt can have a significant impact on their ability to recover compensation in the event of a car accident.
At the law firm of Console & Associates, we help auto accident victims recover financial compensation for their injuries. After an accident, you may be wondering whether you have a case against the other drivers involved. This is especially the case if you were not wearing a seatbelt or contributed to the accident.
We can help. With over 25 years of experience handling all types of car accident cases, our experienced personal injury lawyers understand the complexities of personal injury law. Console & Associates is a well-known personal injury law firm with a reputation for excellence. When you allow Console & Associates to assist with your case, you can rest assured that you are in capable hands.
Indisputably, seatbelts save lives. According to the most recent statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the 37,133 people killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2017, 47 percent were not wearing seat belts. The NHTSA estimates that seatbelts saved nearly 15,000 lives, and would have saved an additional 2,500 had motorists buckled up.
Every state in the United States requires motorists to wear seatbelts. However, each state has its own seatbelt laws. Typically, states have various statutes addressing seatbelt usage. For example, New Jersey has a law requiring children under the age of eight to be secured in a child seat and a separate law requiring everyone over the age of eight to wear a seatbelt. States also vary in terms of whether a motorist’s failure to wear a seatbelt is a primary infraction – meaning a police officer can pull over a motorist for nothing more than not wearing a seatbelt.
When someone is injured in a car wreck, they can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party or parties. However, under the doctrines of contributory negligence, comparative fault, and the mitigation of damages, an accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt can drastically affect their ability to recover for their injuries.
Both comparative fault and comparative negligence are methods that courts use to handle a situation where an accident victim shares responsibility for their injuries. Mitigation of damages is a concept that requires an accident victim to do what they can to reasonably limit their damages. While each of the doctrines can play a role in the recovery process, they are very different.
In situations where a plaintiff’s conduct contributed to an accident, courts use one of three approaches:
Only a small number of states rely on a contributory negligence framework. However, those states do not typically allow the jury to hear evidence of a plaintiff’s failure to wear their seatbelt. This is because a motorist’s lack of a seatbelt does nothing to cause a crash. On the other hand, states using the comparative fault and modified comparative fault are split in terms of whether they allow the jury to hear evidence of an accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt. The rationale being that, while wearing a seatbelt does not prevent an accident, it can lessen an accident victim’s injuries.
Another important concept in car accident cases is the requirement that plaintiffs mitigate their damages. Generally, the law requires a plaintiff to take reasonable steps to prevent additional injury. A plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages may result in a reduction in their damages award. Most states consider a plaintiff’s decision not to wear a seatbelt as a failure to mitigate their damages.
Of course, evidence that an accident victim was not wearing a seatbelt is only relevant in some car accident cases. For example, if an accident victim’s injuries were not related to their failure to wear a seatbelt, seat belt non-use evidence is not relevant. The burden rests with the defense to establish that the plaintiff’s injuries would be less severe had they buckled up.
The importance of wearing a seatbelt cannot be overstated. Seatbelts are a critically important safety feature capable of saving lives. In addition, an accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt can also adversely impact their ability to recover financial compensation for their injuries.
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the dedicated injury advocates at Console & Associates. Even if you were not wearing a seatbelt, you may still be entitled to compensation from the party responsible for causing the accident.
For more than two decades, Attorney Richard P. Console, Jr., has successfully represented accident victims in all types of car accident claims. At Console & Associates, we provide clients and their families with effective representation through every step of the recovery process. We will explain the process in understandable terms and keep you up to date with all developments related to your case. Our goal is to provide you with invaluable peace of mind as we aggressively pursue compensation on your behalf. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call (866) 778-5500 today.
NJ seatbelt laws and stats: https://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/seatbelts.html
NJ seatbelt laws for children: https://www.nj.gov/lps/hts/childseats/childseats_newlaw.html
Jury instruction: https://www.njcourts.gov/attorneys/assets/civilcharges/8.21.pdf?c=K19
Helpful explanation: https://www.goldandalbanese.com/do-i-have-a-case-if-i-didnt-wear-a-seat-belt/
Comparative Fault: https://law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2019/title-2a/section-2a-15-5-1/