not wearing seat belt

Wearing a seat belt is the simplest way to ensure your safety when traveling in a motor vehicle. Whether you are on a long drive out of town, or simply running an errand a few blocks away, car accidents can happen out of the blue. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), most fatal accidents occur at speeds below 40 mph and often within a distance of 25 miles from home.

Unfortunately, many people fail to follow the basic seat belt rule that first came into effect in 1984. Persons riding in vans, SUVs, or pickups sometimes tend to believe that their vehicles are sturdier and therefore, they do not need to wear a seat belt. However, data shows that wearing a seat belt can cut the risk of a fatal injury by 60 percent even in such vehicles.

Close to 37 percent of New York’s highway deaths every year can be traced to car occupants not wearing a seat belt, says data from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. Choosing to not wear a seat belt may not just increase the risk of a serious personal injury, but may also render you incapable of claiming damages in the event of an accident.

Significance of Following Seatbelt Laws in New York

When an accident takes place, one vehicle collides with another vehicle. Besides this, there is also the collision of the persons inside the vehicle with the vehicle’s interior surfaces. What seat belts do is restrain the movement of the upper portion of the body when a crash occurs. Thus, injuries are less severe when car occupants are wearing seatbelts. Seatbelts also play an important role in high-impact collisions where they help to prevent the car occupants from being ejected out of the car.

Data from the NHTSA shows that seatbelts cut the risk of critical injuries by 50 percent. Studies conducted by safety experts show that close to two-thirds of the fatalities in car accidents can be prevented if motorists are responsible for wearing their seatbelts.

New York Laws Regarding Use of Restraints and Seatbelts

Under New York State law, anyone aged 16 and above must wear a seat belt when they are seated in the front seat of a vehicle. Failure to do so can invite a ticket from law enforcement authorities.

If a person below 16 years of age is traveling in the vehicle, they need to wear an age-appropriate restraint regardless of where in the vehicle they are seated. Children under age 4 must be in a child safety seat, and those between ages 4 and 8 must be in a booster seat. Kids aged between 8 and 16 may wear seat belts. A failure to comply with these rules can invite not just financial penalty but also points on the license of the person who is driving the vehicle.

From November 1, 2020, New York requires all passengers inside a vehicle to buckle up irrespective of whether they are riding in the front or the back. Vehicles with passengers who are not wearing a seat belt can be pulled over and tickets issued. This law is applicable to any individual above the age of 16 whether they ride in personal vehicles or use ride-hailing services and taxis.

Tips for Seatbelt Safety in New York

While modern vehicles come with multiple newer safety features designed to provide protection, the fact still remains that wearing a seatbelt is still crucial to your safety in the event of an accident. Your car may have the latest state-of-the-art airbags and yet, these may not be able to protect you in a high-impact collision. In some cases, the force with which an airbag functions itself may lead to a personal injury or even cause fatality if the car occupants are not buckled up.

Here are a few tips to guide you regarding how to wear a seat belt in the correct manner because the improper wearing of a seat belt can be equally dangerous.

  • When you buy a new car, check if the seat belts are a good fit for you and your family members.
  • If necessary, contact the vehicle manufacturer to get seat belt adjusters or extenders to ensure the right fit.
  • When adjusting the seat belt, make sure that the lap belt and shoulder belt portions fit securely across your pelvic region and rib cage. This is crucial to prevent the impact of the upper part of your body with the car’s interior surfaces in the event of a crash.
  • Always place the lap portion of the belt across your hips and not around your stomach.
  • Keep the shoulder belt away from your neck and spread it across the middle part of your chest.
  • Never loop the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back.
  • If your car is an older model that has only lap belts, check if the manufacturer can provide you with a re-fit of the current lap-shoulder belt combination.

What is New York’s Pure Comparative Negligence Rule?

New York adopted the ‘Pure Comparative Negligence Rule’ in 1975. Under this law, the damages an accident victim can recover are reduced to the extent of their contribution to the accident. Defense lawyers often use this law to curtail the compensation granted to the plaintiff. Yet, under this law, you are often at an advantage because even if you are partly at fault for the accident, you can still recover a part of the damages unlike plaintiffs in other states that use the modified comparative fault rule.

If you have been involved in an NYC car accident, while the pure comparative negligence rule may work to your advantage, there is another law called the seat belt defense law that could prove to be your undoing in certain situations. Your compensation in a personal injury claim in New York may get linked to whether or not you were wearing a seat belt.

What is New York’s Seat Belt Defense Law?

Like some other states, New York has a unique seat belt defense law that reduces the number of damages that can be recovered in cases of personal injury caused in car accidents. If you have been involved in an accident and claim compensation for personal injury, the number of damages you receive can be drastically low if it can be proven that you were not wearing the seat belt at the time of the accident.

Insurance adjusters will compare your present injuries against the probable injuries that would have resulted if you had been wearing a seat belt and reduce the payment you receive accordingly. At-fault drivers can use testimony from experts such as doctors, engineers, and car accident reconstruction specialists to show that the victim’s injuries occurred or were exacerbated due to their failure to wear a seat belt.

Fighting against such a seat belt defense can be tough and therefore, it is best to avoid getting into such a situation by always wearing a seatbelt when you travel in any motor vehicle.

What are the Implications of a Successful Seat Belt Defense?

If the accident victim is proved to have been without a seat belt at the time of the accident, the damages awarded may be reduced. However, this does not mean that the defendant can get away with all damages that their acts have caused. A successful seat belt defense only reduces the defendant’s liability for those injuries that could have been prevented or reduced if the plaintiff had been wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

While wearing a seat belt is every car occupant’s responsibility, if you happened to not wear one and sustained an injury in an accident caused by another party’s fault, you can certainly pursue a claim for personal injuries or property damage. This is where consulting and working with an experienced and competent car accident attorney in NYC can make a huge difference to the amount that you recover as damages.

Contact a New York Car Accident Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Being injured in a serious car accident in New York can be a harrowing experience. Once you have ensured that you receive the necessary medical attention to recover from your injuries, it is vital that you file for damages to compensate you for the losses that you sustained.

Even if you think that you have been partly to blame for the accident, or if you regret not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, get in touch with our car accident personal injury attorneys in New York at the earliest.

At Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP, we understand the challenges posed by the seat belt defense law of New York. For years now, we have helped accident victims seek justice for the damages they sustained in accidents caused due to the fault of another party.

Whether it is to negotiate with the insurance adjusters or represent our clients at a court hearing, our car accident lawyers have the necessary resources and experience to make sure you win the compensation to which you are entitled.

For a free confidential case review, call Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP today at 212-344-1000 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.


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