Under New York law, a defendant in a car crash case can introduce evidence that the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt to prove contributory negligence. Under the “seat belt defense” the defendant tries to convince the jury only to award damages for the injuries the plaintiff would have sustained if a seat belt had been worn. If you’ve been in a car accident and were not wearing a seat belt, this defense can substantially reduce the amount you can recover for your injuries.
Imagine a scenario where the plaintiff is a passenger who was ejected from a car upon collision. The defense argues that failure to wear a seat belt is contributory negligence, because they received much more severe injuries upon contact with the hard surface of the road. Is there any way to counter that defense?
- Challenge the test data – The seat belt defense depends mightily upon data from seat belt effectiveness tests. Your attorney must be prepared to point out the flaws in the test’s methodology and its conclusions.
- Highlight the victim’s physical differences – Seat belt effectiveness studies are performed on crash test dummies whose dimensions resemble less than half of the public. Test results may not correlate to a victim who is significantly taller, shorter, lighter or heavier.
- Present your own experts – A plaintiff can retain a seat belt defense expert to analyze physical and testimonial evidence, critique seat belt effectiveness tests entered into evidence, and render an opinion.
Finally, an attorney can make a fundamental appeal to fairness. Damages are based on what a jury believes is fair and reasonable. When comparing fault for an accident, or for the injuries that result, a jury must consider who must bear the burden. Should the burden of medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering rest with an innocent driver who forgot to buckle up? Or should that burden be place on a negligent driver whose careless maneuver caused two fast-moving vehicles to collide?
Whether you wore a seatbelt of not, if you’ve been in a car accident, you need a talented and determined attorney to help you secure the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer from Rubin & Licatesi, P.C., call us at 516-227-2662 or contact our Brooklyn office online.