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Can I Receive Compensation if I Didn’t Have a Seat Belt on During a Car Crash?

| Jul 20, 2020 | Car Accidents

Were you injured in a car crash in New York while not wearing a seat belt? You might be wondering if you can still receive compensation for your injuries, even if they were caused in part by your own negligence. Our Oneonta car accident lawyers explain how your compensation is affected in a personal injury claim if you are hit by another driver while not wearing a seat belt.

Facts About Seat Belt Use

Wearing a seat belt may seem like common sense. However, a surprising number of people neglect to wear them while driving or riding in a motor vehicle.

Facts about seat belt use in the U.S. include:

  • Seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%.

  • Seat belts reduce the risk of sustaining a serious injury by 50%.

  • 1 in 7 people do not wear a seat belt at all while driving.

  • People who are not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash.

Not only does wearing a seat belt go a long way towards protecting you in a crash, but it is also required by law.

New York Seat Belt Laws

In New York State, the law requires that all front seat passengers must wear a seat belt, or be subject to a fine of $50. Any passenger under the age of 16 must wear a seat belt at all times regardless of where they are seated and children under the age of four must ride in safety seats.

This law is strictly enforced statewide. If you have been in a car accident and it is found that you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, there can be consequences.

The Seat Belt Defense

New York is one of the few states in the U.S. that allows damages to be reduced for not wearing a seat belt at the time of a car accident, even if the wreck was not at all your fault.

This means that if you bring a personal injury claim against the driver who hit you, they can raise something called a “seat belt defense.” In such an instance, the person who hit you (the “defendant”) can argue that it was the fault of the “plaintiff” (you) for sustaining injuries that you wouldn’t have suffered if you had been wearing a seat belt.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the defendant gets off the hook. They can still be held accountable for the accident. But it does mean that you may share the blame and thus have your compensation reduced.

It is possible to fight a seat belt defense, but your best shot at beating one is to hire a lawyer. The defendant and their lawyer will attempt to show that your lack of seat belt use was more to blame for your injuries than they were by using analysis, medical records, and expert testimony. Having your own lawyer can help you scrutinize the defendant’s case for flaws and effectively argue against it. Even if you can’t beat their defense, you may be able to absolve yourself of a portion of the blame, setting you up to receive more compensation than you would have otherwise.

Have you been injured in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt? Our Oneonta car accident lawyers can help. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.