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Can you sue a negligent driver if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2024 | Car Accidents

After suffering injuries in a car accident, you need to look for ways to cover your losses. That’s no small feat given the extraordinary financial damages you’ll face, including medical expenses and lost wages, in addition to the pain and suffering, physical limitation, and loss of enjoyment of life with which you’ll have to contend.

Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit might be your best course of action, but depending on the facts of your case, you might have some questions about the viability of your claim. This is especially true if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt when your wreck occurred.

Can you still pursue a personal injury lawsuit if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt?

Yes. Although you’re required by law to wear a seatbelt when operating a motor vehicle, your failure to wear one won’t preclude you from taking legal action against a driver who caused you harm.

However, if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt when your crash occurred, then the jury in your case will have to answer some tough questions. This includes:

  • Was the defendant negligent? A jury will always have to answer this question in a car accident lawsuit. So, you’ll need to be prepared to have evidence showing that the defendant was at fault for your accident.
  • Was the victim negligent in not wearing a seatbelt? Given that status of New Jersey’s seatbelt law, not wearing your seatbelt will likely be considered negligent.
  • Could the victim’s injuries have been prevented or minimized if a seatbelt was worn? This is a big question in cases where the seatbelt defense is raised. In these circumstances, the defendant is going to claim that your injuries would’ve been avoided if you’d simply been wearing your seatbelt. This is a complicated question to answer, which is why these cases oftentimes require expert testimony from both sides.
  • What damages would’ve been suffered if the victim had been wearing a seatbelt? In many car accident cases, some, but not all, injuries could have been avoided if a seatbelt was worn. It’s up to the jury to untangle what could’ve been prevented. Again, expert testimony might be necessary if you want to give the jury a clear picture.

How does not wearing your seatbelt impact the outcome of your personal injury case?

If you succeed on your car accident claim, then not wearing your seatbelt could reduce the amount of compensation you recover. Since New Jersey recognizes comparative fault, your financial award will be reduced by the amount of fault that’s assigned to you. If it’s determined that all of your injuries could’ve been avoided if you’d been wearing a seatbelt, then you might be denied compensation altogether.

That’s why it’s critically important that you gather evidence and witness testimony that allows you to aggressively defend your position, especially given that there may be other legal complexities in your case.

Competently navigate the nuances of your car accident case

There are a lot of moving pieces in a personal injury case. If you don’t properly handle them, then you could jeopardize your case, thereby putting yourself at risk of a recovery that’s far less than you expect.

So, are you ready to build the aggressive car accident case you need to put yourself on the path to a successful recovery? If so, then now is the time to get to work analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your case and developing legal arguments targeted at proving causation and damages.

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