New Jersey law requires every driver and passenger to wear a seat belt anytime they are in a car traveling the state’s roads and highways. Seat belt laws are designed to save lives and minimize injuries during a car accident. The choice to not use seat belts can negatively impact a personal injury claim after a traffic accident. If a defendant can prove that a plaintiff’s injuries may not have been so bad or even occurred at all had they been wearing a seat belt, the plaintiff’s damages for injuries may be significantly reduced.
Data on seat belt use and injuries
The research is pretty clear on the importance of seat belts. In 2015 alone, seat belts saved nearly 14,000 lives across the country. During that year, 22,441 people died in car accidents, and nearly half of them were unrestrained at the time of the collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by half for toddlers between the ages of one and four. Everyone should wear a seat belt every single time they get in a car.
The “seat belt defense”
In most car accident lawsuits, the plaintiff’s goal is to show the defendant’s careless driving caused their injuries or property damage. In some cases, the defendant evokes the “seat belt defense” hoping to prove that:
- The plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the car accident
- By not wearing a seat belt, the plaintiff was negligent
- The plaintiff’s injuries were made more serious or severe because they were not wearing a seat belt
If the plaintiff violated state seat belt laws by failing to wear one, the jury considers this when determining negligence in a personal injury case. The jury determines what part of the plaintiff’s injuries could have been avoided if they were restrained at the time of the accident.
They arrive at this number after subtracting what that the damages would have been had the plaintiff been restrained from the actual total damages they suffered. If the plaintiff’s injuries could not have been prevented even with a seat belt, then the seat belt defense cannot be used. Expert testimony is usually used to assess whether or not a seat belt could have prevented or limited the plaintiff’s injuries.
The best way to prevent serious injuries for you and your passengers is to use seat belts every trip you take. Not only have seat belts been proven to save lives during car accidents, using your seat belt is an important protection should you ever be involved in a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident. Even if you are not at fault for an accident, your failure to obey New Jersey’s seat belt laws can be a factor in reducing your potential damages.
If you have been injured by a careless driver, or if you are facing a car accident lawsuit and believe the plaintiff’s injuries were worsened because they were not wearing a seat belt, call the South Jersey car accident lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. today. We understand the seat belt defense and how it applies to both sides of a case and will work tirelessly on your behalf to achieve the best legal outcome possible.
South Jersey Car Accident Lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. Successfully Pursue Personal Injury Claims
To schedule your free case review with an experienced and highly skilled South Jersey car accident lawyer, call 856-354-9444 or contact us online today. Folkman Law Offices, P.C. is located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania to serve clients across South Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area.