How Wearing A Seatbelt Can Affect Your Claim

Let's start with the numbers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Seat belt use reduces crash-related injuries and fatalities by more than 50%.
  • Air bags provide protection but are not a substitute for seat belts.
  • Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death of people younger than 34. Drivers aged between 18 and 34 are less likely to wear seat belts than people older than 35.
  • Seat belt use could have prevented an estimated 12,000 injuries and saved 450 lives in 2009.

New Jersey has a primary enforcement seat belt law, which means that the police can stop you simply because someone in a vehicle is not wearing seat belts. That law applies to everyone —the driver and the passengers in both the front and rear seats. If it is your first offense, it can cost you $46 in fines. If you are involved in an accident, it can cost you much more.

The car accident attorneys at Smith & Gaynor, LLC, in Morristown help people who have been injured in a car accident recover damages. But under New Jersey's comparative negligence personal injury laws, your damages could be reduced if you were not wearing your seat belt – even if another driver's negligence caused the accident. Here's why:

You Might Not Receive Full Compensation

Insurance companies are for-profit businesses that want to pay you as little as they can in compensation for your injuries. If you were injured in a car accident and were not wearing a seat belt, the insurance company will seek to reduce the amount of money it has to pay you under a legal principle that is known as comparative negligence.

Under comparative negligence, the injury victim's damages are reduced by the percentage of fault that the victim bears for his or her injuries. For example, if your total damages were $100,000 and you were 10% at fault, you would be awarded only $90,000.

The insurance company will argue that if you had been wearing your seat belt, your injuries would have been far less serious. Even if the other driver's negligence was the sole cause of the accident, you still bear some responsibility for the severity of your injuries because you were not wearing a seat belt.

There are no specific guidelines for assessing comparative negligence in New Jersey. The percentage of fault is determined on a case-by-case basis. As your attorneys, we will fight to maximize your compensation. But you can help yourself — and perhaps even save your life and the lives of others — by making sure everyone in your car wears a seat belt.

Connect With An Experienced Car Accident Attorney

Robert A. Smith, a certified civil trial attorney, prides himself on providing personal but professional legal counsel, and he believes open and honest communication with his clients is the key to building a long-lasting partnership based on trust.

If you would like to discuss your car accident case with Robert Smith and the law team at Smith & Gaynor, LLC, contact us online or through our Morristown offices at 973-532-2661 to schedule a free consultation. Weekend and evening appointments are available. If you are unable to travel, one of our lawyers will meet with you at the hospital or in your home.

Se habla español.