Understanding the Seatbelt Defense in New York and How it Can Affect Your Case
Wearing a seatbelt is not just a potentially life-saving and good idea, it is the law. New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1229-C requires certain individuals in the front and back seat to wear a seatbelt. While most people do wear seatbelts, unfortunately sometimes individuals forget or are just going a short distance, children slip out of them to get conformable, or seatbelts are damaged and not timely repaired. We do not expect to get into a motor vehicle wreck, but when it occurs it always seems to be at the worst time—including when we are not wearing a seatbelt, slipped out of the seatbelt, or have a broken seatbelt. A common defense used by defendant or insurance company is known as the “seatbelt defense” and it can affect your case. Learn what is the seatbelt defense in New York and how it can affect your claim from our Queens car accident lawyers at COHEN & COHEN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS, P.C.
Who is Required to Wear a Seat Belt in New York?
The text of Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1229-C can be confusing. It is a few long paragraphs with many exceptions and cross-references. Our Queens car accident lawyers and the New York State DMV break down the following requirements of who must wear a seat belt under New York law:
Front Seat: All individuals in the front seat must wear a seatbelt no matter what their age is.
All Occupants: When the motor vehicle is being operated by a person with a learner permit, limited class DJ, or Class-DJ driver’s license.
All Occupants under 16: Must wear a seatbelt or be in the appropriate child safety restrain system based on manufacturer recommendations.
What is the Seatbelt Defense in New York?
The seat belt defense is a common tool by insurance lawyers and insurance adjusters. Nearly every single defendant will interpose the seatbelt defense when they first appear in a lawsuit (known as an answer). Once seatbelt use has been established in a case, a defendant can withdraw the seatbelt defense in the answer. However, if there is no evidence of seatbelt use or if the seatbelt was affirmatively not used, it can result in the application of the seatbelt defense.
Under New York common law (or judge-made law), the seatbelt defense is applicable where a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle is not wearing a seatbelt and sustains injuries in a Queens car accident. The defense allows for a defendant to have the award against him or her reduced by what damages worsened by not seating a seatbelt. Said differently, whatever damages are caused by the lack of a seatbelt could be subtracted for a court award to a victim.
An example would be if a passenger suffered a traumatic brain injury in a Queens car accident from going through the windshield in a crash. However, if the passenger would have suffered just bruising to the chest and stomach, the passenger’s damages could be reduced from a traumatic brain injury to just bruising—this could be a drastic reduction in damages. This is why you need an experienced New York car accident lawyer to protect your rights to compensation.
Don’t Let the Seatbelt Defense Reduce Your Award: Get Help from COHEN & COHEN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS, P.C.
Here at COHEN & COHEN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS, P.C. , our experienced Queens car accident lawyers know how defendant attorneys and insurance companies create and use defenses to reduce the compensation that you may deserve. We do not let this happen. Our experienced legal team can work with your medical providers and may hire liability experts to establish fault against a defendant. Learn what your rights may be by calling 800-247-8164 for a FREE case evaluation or use our convenient and easy-to-use contact us box available here.