Another driver might negligently cause an accident whether you have a seatbelt or not. Even so, if you were not wearing a seatbelt, your case against the other driver might be more difficult.
You can still sue for a car accident if you were not wearing a seatbelt, but getting damages might be difficult. In New York, courts follow a rule of pure comparative negligence. Under this rule, a plaintiff who might have contributed to their own injuries in some way may still recover damages, but the amount of compensation is reduced in proportion to their share of fault. Since seatbelts have been proven repeatedly to reduce injuries in car accidents, not wearing one might be construed as the plaintiff being contributorily negligent. Depending on your injuries and how your lack of a seatbelt came into play, your damages might be reduced by a lot or a little. Your attorney can help you refute allegations of contributory negligence and minimize the effects on your damages.
Contact our Westchester County car accident lawyers by calling The Martello Law Firm, PLLC at (914) 685-6950 and schedule a free, private review of your case.
Can I Still Sue for a Car Accident in Westchester County If I Forgot to Wear a Seatbelt?
If you are involved in a crash where you were not wearing a seatbelt, you can still sue the other driver for damages. A few things tend to confuse people when it comes to suing for car accidents and seatbelts. First, people sometimes think they cannot sue or will have difficulty suing because you are technically required by law to wear a seatbelt. While not wearing a seatbelt can be a problem, it should not preclude you from suing.
Second, people tend to get hung up on whether their lack of a seatbelt during a crash worsened their injuries or otherwise contributed to the accident. A few states bar plaintiffs from recovering any damages if they are even slightly negligent in an accident. In such states, not wearing a seatbelt might be enough to prevent you from suing for damages because you would be considered contributorily negligent. New York is not one of these states.
New York follows a pure comparative fault rule that allows people to sue even if they contributed to their accidents and injuries. This rule is explained in greater detail below, but how your lack of a seatbelt impacts your case depends on how a seatbelt would have changed or prevented your injuries.
How Comparative Negligence Works in Westchester County Car Accident Cases
There are various rules regarding contributory or comparative negligence. Pure contributory negligence is perhaps the strictest rule and bars plaintiffs from recovering anything if they are negligent. This is a harsh rule that is only followed in a handful of states.
New York follows a pure comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, a plaintiff deemed contributorily negligent may still sue the defendant, but their damages may be reduced according to their share of the fault. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 15% responsible for their accident or injuries, their overall damages and compensation may be reduced by 15%.
While comparative negligence is the predominant rule, there are some differences between states. Some states follow a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, if a plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for their accident, they recover nothing. New York does not follow this rule. New York’s pure comparative negligence rule does not have a “50% rule.”
Since New York follows a pure comparative negligence rule, you may recover damages even if you are primarily responsible for the accident. Suppose the court determines you are 85% responsible for your accident. You can still sue in New York, but you might only recover 15% of your damages. In such a situation, the defendant might countersue, and you might end up owing them the other 85%.
Recovering Damages for a Car Accident if You Did Not Wear a Seatbelt in Westchester County
As discussed above, you can still file a lawsuit and recover damages after a car accident where you were not wearing a seatbelt. While New York does adhere to a pure comparative negligence rule, it does not bar recovery if the plaintiff is partially to blame.
The defendant might use your lack of a seatbelt to argue for a reduction in your damages. If the defendant can establish that your lack of a seatbelt played a role in your injuries and made them worse, your compensation may be reduced.
How much your compensation is reduced depends on how your seatbelt affected your injuries. Generally, courts deal with this kind of thing by assigning a percentage of fault. The reduction might be substantial in cases where a plaintiff was injured because they were thrown from the vehicle, perhaps due to their failure to wear a seat belt. If the seatbelt would have done little to minimize your injuries, your compensation might be reduced only slightly.
Minimizing the Effect Your Seatbelt Has on Your Westchester County Car Accident Case
Your attorney can help you refute allegations that your seat belt, or lack thereof, somehow contributed to your injuries. If the fact that you were not wearing a seat belt is shown to have made your injuries worse, our Westchester personal injury lawyers can work to minimize the impact on your case.
One method is to have your accident and injuries reviewed by experts. Accident reconstruction experts can scientifically recreate how an accident happened, including how people were injured. An expert can review your accident and injuries and determine if wearing a seat belt would have made a difference. It is possible that there would not have been much of a difference, or the difference would have been slight.
Contact Our Westchester County Car Accident Lawyers for Help with Your Case
Call our Yonkers, NY car accident attorneys at The Martello Law Firm, PLLC at (914) 685-6950 and make an appointment for a free, confidential review of your claims.