Never Really Wear a Seatbelt? Can It Hurt Your Injury Claim?
There are all kinds of reasons you may decide not to wear a seatbelt. Perhaps you feel too restricted. Maybe you don’t think it’s necessary in the back seat of a motor vehicle. You may be under the impression that a seatbelt prevents you from escape in the case of a car crash. However, you may also wonder if failure to wear one affects your injury claim.
We doubt that many require a refresher course on New Jersey’s seatbelt law. Notwithstanding, the requirement to wear seatbelts is found at NJSA 39:3-76.2f. All vehicle occupants are required to wear safety restraints. And, yes, that does include those seated in the rear of a passenger car, van or SUV.
In fact, you should know there’s another nuance in the law when it comes to wearing seatbelts. The onus is on the driver to ensure everyone is buckled up. This includes strapping in vehicle occupants under the age of eighteen.
So, now that we have reestablished the rules on seatbelts, the question remains. Can the fact that you don’t wear one affect your personal injury claim?
Comparative Negligence and Personal Injury
First things first. Are you familiar with the concept of comparative negligence? It’s the idea that someone’s actions may have contributed to their injuries. In New Jersey, as long as the negligence is less than fifty percent, it is possible to recover monetary damages.
There is one caveat. If there is evidence that an injured party may be somewhat liable, the total amount of the damages award or settlement will be comparatively adjusted. What’s that mean?
You are in an accident. For whatever reason, the case can’t be settled and is taken to a jury trial. The jury values the case at $50,000. Meanwhile, the court also finds you twenty percent negligent for your injuries. You would only be entitled to a gross monetary award of $40,000.
Without a doubt, the insurance company will argue that your injuries would not have occurred if you were buckled up. They might be right. However, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to present evidence discounting the extent of your wrongdoing.
It’s happened quite publicly. Almost of all of us remember the horrible accident that involved comedian Tracy Morgan and a Walmart truck. In fact, we wrote an article about it soon after it happened.
All things considered, it’s hard to imagine that negligence could be attributable to the comedian. After all, Tracy was a limousine passenger. He wasn’t driving nor did he do anything to distract the driver. However, Tracy wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. And, the big box retailer claimed that meant he was comparatively negligent.
Nevertheless, Walmart did pay out on the claim. Reportedly, their aim was to avoid bad publicity. In the meantime,they submitted the claim to their liability carrier. According to a recent news article, the insurance company is not too happy with the amount of the settlement.
Whether you were wearing a seatbelt or not, it is important to seek legal advice concerning any motor vehicle accident claim. Contact the Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafaljo to schedule a complimentary appointment.