Car accidents can happen in a split second, yet their repercussions can last months, years, or even a lifetime. In New York, as in other states, wearing a seat belt is a wise safety measure and the law.
But what happens if you’re in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt? Can you still pursue legal action?
The short answer is yes, but the long answer is a bit more complex. It’s crucial to consult with a reputable attorney to understand the intricacies of the law.
If you have questions or need legal representation after a car accident, contact our legal team at The Law Offices of Joseph J. Perrini, III. We can help you with your claim and ensure your rights are protected.
The Seat Belt Law in New York
New York was the first state in the U.S. to pass a law requiring seat belt use for adults. According to New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1229-C(3), every passenger and driver must wear a seat belt, regardless of where they’re sitting. This law is designed to protect the safety of all individuals in a vehicle.
The Impact of the Seat Belt Defense
When a person is involved in a car accident in New York without wearing a seat belt, the defense may raise the “seat belt defense.” This rule, codified in the New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules Section 1411, is a comparative negligence law.
It stipulates that if you’re partially at fault for your injuries, your compensation could be reduced by the percentage of your fault.
In the context of the seat belt defense, if it’s proven that your injuries were more severe or occurred because you weren’t wearing a seat belt, the defense could argue that you bear some responsibility for your injuries. However, the defendant must prove this connection, which isn’t always straightforward.
The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer in New York
Given the complexity of these laws, it’s crucial to engage a qualified injury lawyer. The right legal representation can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system, argue your case effectively, and maximize your chances of a fair settlement.
Even if you were not wearing a seat belt during the accident, remember that the other party’s negligence may still be primarily or entirely to blame for the accident itself. Your lawyer can help gather evidence to prove this point and to counter any seat belt defense raised by the opposition.
Considerations for Not Wearing a Seat Belt
While not wearing a seat belt can impact your personal injury claim, it does not automatically bar you from seeking compensation for injuries resulting from an accident. It’s important to note that even if the seat belt defense is successfully raised, it only applies to injuries that could have been prevented or lessened by wearing a seat belt.
For example, if you suffered a broken leg due to the accident’s impact, but your head injury was worsened by not wearing a seat belt, only the compensation for your injury might be reduced.
The Importance of Legal Representation
According to the New York Department of Health, motor vehicle traffic-related injuries are a leading cause of injury death and hospitalization in New York State. Despite this, many victims fail to seek the legal representation they need following an accident.
Having an attorney can significantly increase your chances of obtaining fair and just compensation. The Law Offices of Joseph J. Perrini, III, has a wealth of experience in this area and is committed to fighting for the rights of accident victims. Regardless of whether you were wearing a seat belt or if you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you deserve justice.
Let Our New York Personal Injury Lawyer Help with Your Case
While wearing a seat belt is crucial for safety and legal reasons, not wearing one doesn’t completely invalidate your rights to pursue a personal injury claim if you’re injured in an accident. The laws surrounding seat belt use and car accident liability can be complex, requiring the expertise of a seasoned injury attorney.
Gathering Evidence to Support Your Claim
Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident to gather evidence supporting your claim. This might include police reports, witness testimonies, medical records, and accident reconstruction expert reports. Your lawyer will also challenge any attempts by the defense to exaggerate the impact of not wearing a seat belt on your injuries.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Insurance companies often try to minimize the amount they pay out in claims. They may use your lack of a seat belt to reduce or deny your claim. An experienced lawyer advocating for you can significantly influence these negotiations. Your attorney can counter the insurance company’s tactics and negotiate a settlement that accurately reflects your injuries and losses.
Taking Your Case to Trial
Your case may go to trial if a fair settlement can’t be reached. This process can be daunting, but with a skilled personal injury lawyer in New York on your side, you can rest assured that your case will be persuasively presented to the jury. Your attorney can counter any seat belt defense raised by the opposition, emphasizing the defendant’s negligence and the extent of your injuries.
While wearing a seat belt is always safer and legally advisable, not doing so doesn’t strip you of your rights after a car accident. An experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, like Joseph J. Perrini, III, can guide you through the complexities of the law, helping you seek the justice and compensation you deserve.
Remember, the law is designed to protect victims of negligence. Don’t let the fact that you weren’t wearing a seat belt deter you from pursuing a personal injury claim if you’ve been injured in an accident. Contact The Law Offices of Joseph J. Perrini, III, today to discuss your case and learn more about your rights and options.