Not using a seat belt shouldn’t prevent you from filing a lawsuit due to injuries caused in an accident says Philadelphia car accident lawyer Rand Spear.
Wearing a seatbelt is required by law and is just good common sense. If you’re involved in a car accident the chances are very good that the seat belt may prevent injuries or reduce their severity. If you choose not to use one, are involved in an accident and injured different states handle the issue differently when it comes to lawsuits so you’ll need advice on what to do from Philadelphia car accident lawyer Rand Spear.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey take different approaches but in neither state does a failure to wear a seat belt prevent someone injured in a motor vehicle accident from filing a legal claim for compensation for injuries, but it may effect the outcome of the claim. In Pennsylvania, by state statute, whether or not a person in an accident used a seat belt is not relevant and has no impact on the case. Evidence of a person’s failure to use a seat belt can’t be used as evidence in a civil case.
It’s more complicated in New Jersey, says car accident attorney Spear. There is no New Jersey statute spelling out how the situation should be handled so that’s been left up to the state’s courts to decide. New Jersey is a comparative negligence state so even if a person is partially responsible for an accident and/or injuries, that doesn’t prevent him or her from obtaining damages (money awarded as compensation for injuries and their effects).
The fact a person wasn’t using a seat belt can’t be used as evidence when a judge or jury decides liability (or who is to blame for the accident) but it may be used as evidence when damages are calculated. Depending on the circumstances and the evidence produced at trial damages may be reduced. That’s why it’s so important to have a car accident lawyer on your side.
The defendant has the burden of producing evidence the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. The defendant must next show which injuries were caused by the accident and which ones were caused or worsened by the fact a seat belt wasn’t used. It would be up to the defendant to show,
- First collision injuries, which are injuries that would have happened whether or not the injured party used a seat belt.
- Second collision injuries, or add-on or enhanced injuries, which are those that the use of a seat belt may have prevented or reduced.
If there is sufficient evidence to allow a judge or jury to divide a victim’s injuries and damages by isolating the second collision or seat belt damages, they would have to decide the value of those damages. This could be a complex challenge and an accident injury attorney may utilize,
- Accident reconstruction experts laying out how the accident occurred and what forces impacted the plaintiff’s vehicle, where and how strongly, as well as how the plaintiff struck the interior of the vehicle, and
- Medical experts testifying on which injuries resulted from the initial collision and which ones would’ve been prevented or lessened if a seat belt was used.
If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident, weren’t using seat belts and were injured in an accident you should still seek legal advice about how to protect your legal rights. If the accident happened in Pennsylvania, seat belt use is not an issue. If it occurred in New Jersey damages may be reduced but if the other party is found liable you might still be awarded damages.
If you or a family member were injured in a motor vehicle accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, contact Philadelphia car accident lawyer Rand Spear today at 888-373-4LAW or by form for a free consultation. You can discuss what happened, how the law may apply and your best options for obtaining compensation for your injuries.