What to Know If You Weren’t Wearing a Seatbelt at the Time of a Motor Vehicle Accident
Your ability to sue for injuries suffered in New Jersey
Maybe you sometimes fail to put on your seatbelt because you’re in a hurry or get distracted. Or perhaps you’re simply in the habit of not wearing it. If you’re in an accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, and not wearing a seatbelt at the time, can you still take legal action to recover for your losses?
The impact of failure to wear a seatbelt on an automobile accident claim in New Jersey
You are not be prohibited from taking legal action to get compensation for injuries sustained in a car crash, even if you weren’t using your seatbelt as required by New Jersey law. However, your failure to wear the seatbelt will likely diminish the amount you can recover.
The law is settled in New Jersey that not wearing a seatbelt while operating or riding in a moving vehicle constitutes negligence. When you bring a lawsuit to recover for personal injuries, it most likely will be based on a theory that the person who caused the accident was negligent. In cases where the person seeking damages was also negligent to any degree, courts apply the principle of comparative negligence. With that approach, the jury first determines the full amount of the injured person’s losses and then establishes the degree to which that person contributed to causing the accident and/or injuries sustained. The total amount of the damage award is then reduced by that percentage.
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, and you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, the defendant can argue to the court that you were at least partially to blame for the extent of your injuries—that you would not have been hurt as badly if you’d had on your seatbelt. Any award will be reduced if the jury finds that your failure to wear a seatbelt caused your injuries or made them worse. Under New Jersey’s “modified comparative negligence” approach, if the jury determines you were more than 50% responsible for your injuries, you may be denied any recovery at all.
Contact the law office of Howard D. Popper
For a free initial consultation to discuss your options after a motor vehicle accident, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton. Currently, all our client communications are by phone, text message, or videoconference.
We handle all motor vehicle accident claims on a contingent-fee basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.