Can I Still File an Injury Claim if I Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt?
The chance of suffering an injury in a car crash is much higher for people who choose not to wear a seat belt. That is why insurance companies often try to use lack of seat belt use against victims to try and deny or devalue their claims.
However, you are not automatically disqualified from filing an injury claim if you did not wear a seat belt. If the crash was another driver’s fault, your failure to use a seat belt was not a factor in why the accident happened. That said, not putting on a seat belt may diminish your compensation.
Our New Jersey car accident lawyers may be able to help you file a claim and work to maximize your compensation, even if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. The initial consultation is free, and we have a proven track record of success.
Seat Belt Laws in New Jersey
Every driver and front-seat passenger over the age of eight traveling in a passenger vehicle, SUV, bus, van or pickup truck, must wear a safety belt that is properly adjusted and fastened. A driver found in violation of the law could face a $46 fine and additional court fees.
The law also makes any driver of a vehicle responsible for the appropriate use of seat belts for anyone in the vehicle who is under the age of 18. If you fail to make sure minors in your vehicle are buckled up and they suffer a serious injury or death, you could face felony charges.
How Can my Claim Be Affected?
New Jersey is a no-fault state, which means crash victims must seek compensation from their own Personal Injury Protection coverage. If the cost of your medical treatment exceeds your PIP policy limits, you may be able to file a third-party claim through the at-fault driver’s liability insurance.
While you have the legal right to pursue compensation for an injury caused by the negligence of another, there are some factors that could affect your claim, including your failure to wear a seat belt.
The Seat Belt Defense
New Jersey is one of the states where courts may allow the insurance company or at-fault party to assert the defense that wearing a seat belt would have protected you from serious injury. While this defense may not absolve the insurance company/at-fault from all liability for your injuries, it may reduce the value of your claim.
There are two legal theories at-fault parties may use when asserting a seat belt defense; comparative negligence and failure to mitigate damages.
The insurance company may try to devalue your claim based on the idea that not wearing a seat belt is what caused your injuries. They may say New Jersey’s comparative negligence law should be applied to reduce your compensation award by your percentage of fault.
Your attorney may be able to counter this defense by arguing your non-use of a seat belt issue did not affect the negligence of the other driver. You would have been injured even if you wore your seat belt because the other driver was reckless.
Failure to Mitigate Damages
New Jersey is one of the few states that allows an injury victim’s compensation to be diminished if he or she did not act in a manner to reasonably diminish the extent of an injury. This means that if your claim goes to court and you recover a favorable jury verdict, your compensation may still be reduced if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision.
Need Help Filing Your Claim? Call Today
If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you have the legal right to pursue compensation, regardless of your decision to wear a seat belt. However, you may have a difficult time recovering full compensation without help from our licensed attorneys.
For more than two decades, Lynch Law Firm, PC has been advocating for injury victims in New Jersey, pursuing compensation from insurance companies and at-fault parties who try to deny or devalue the extent of the victim’s injuries.
There are no upfront fees and we do not get paid for our services unless you receive compensation.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation: (800) 518-0508