The simplified answer to this question is yes, you can recover damages if you weren’t wearing a seat belt. However, before you file a personal injury lawsuit, you must understand how not wearing a seat belt could affect your case.
Consider this scenario: you’re making a short trip a mile or two down the road. You decide not to wear your seat belt since the journey won’t take long, but you’re stopped at a light and someone rear-ends your car. Your body is thrown forward into the steering wheel and you feel a sharp pain in your chest; the force of slamming into the steering wheel has broken your sternum. Your medical bills add up quickly, as chest injuries aren’t cheap.
Don’t Settle for Less Than You Deserve
According to New York law, because you sustained a serious injury, or suffered basic economic loss in excess of $50,000, you are entitled to take legal action against the other driver. Your case seems solid – after all, the other driver caused the accident, so aren’t you entitled to compensation?
Technically, yes. But consider this: after you file a claim for monetary damages, the other driver asserts something called the seat belt defense. They argue that your injury was caused by your failure to wear a seat belt. That defense is accepted, and you end up with a lot less money than you need.
You don’t have to settle for less than you deserve – the Long Island car accident attorneys at Carner & DeVita will fight for your right to fair and equitable compensation so you can focus on recovery.
We’ve helped thousands of injured clients in New York, and we have the resources and expertise to help you, too. Call (631) 543-7070 or contact us here for a free consultation.
New York Seat Belt Defense
New York law requires all drivers and passengers to wear seat belts. If you do not wear a seat belt and are injured in a car crash, the other driver (defendant) can use the seat belt defense to pay you less money.
It’s important to understand that the seat belt defense can only be used in determining damages, not in determining liability. This defense generally does not amount to negligence per se or contributory negligence. In other words, in the vast majority of cases, a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt is not relevant to the issue of liability. Instead, it is only relevant to the determination of damages. There are a small number of cases where liability may be determined by the failure to wear a seatbelt.
Negligence Per Se
This is a Latin term meaning negligence “in itself.” It’s important to understand this law and know that it cannot be used against a plaintiff (injured driver) for failing to use a seat belt. This means that under New York law, a plaintiff is not negligent for failing to wear a seat belt. A driver who failed to wear a seat belt and was injured in a car accident by a distracted or impaired driver cannot be held fully responsible for their injuries.
How To Use the Seat Belt Defense
The defendant (at-fault driver) in a New York car accident case must make a connection between the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt and the injuries they sustained.
For example, the seat belt defense was used in one New York car accident case because the defendant used expert testimony establishing that the plaintiff’s injuries were concurrent with their failure to wear a seat belt.
Without expert evidence linking the plaintiff’s injuries to their nonuse of a seat belt, the defendant cannot present the seat belt defense.
Going Against the Seat Belt Defense
The experienced car crash lawyers at Carner & DeVita have helped thousands of injured clients receive the compensation they need to pay for their injuries and damages. One of the ways we do so is by proving that our client would have suffered the same type and degree of injuries had they worn a seat belt during the crash.
Another argument is that there was no functioning seat belt available for you to use – perhaps it broke and you were on the way to get it fixed when you were hit by another driver.
There are also gaps in research that the car crash lawyers at Carner & DeVita use to successfully counter a defendant’s seat belt defense. For example, research on vehicle seat belts is almost always performed on crash-test dummies. These tests may not accurately portray those effects on human beings, so the data performed in those tests may be proven inaccurate.
Long Island Auto Accident Lawyer
If you weren’t wearing a seat belt but were injured in a car accident, don’t give up. Don’t assume that you have no legal options, and don’t listen to the other driver or their lawyer. Our auto accident lawyers at Carner & DeVita have represented hundreds of clients who thought their cases were a definite loss. We successfully recovered equitable compensation for them through a combination of legal prowess and strategy, and we’ll fight to get you the compensation you need.
Although the seat belt defense may seem impenetrable, the skilled Long Island car accident attorneys at Carner & DeVita will counter this argument and fight for you with hard-hitting evidence. Carner & DeVita have secured hundreds of millions of dollars for our injured clients, even when the defendant used the seat belt defense in an effort to pay far less money.
Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve; call Long Island car accident attorneys Carner & DeVita at (631) 543-7070 or contact us here for a free case consultation.