When going through the insurance claim process after a car crash, every detail matters. Unfortunately, sometimes even what seems like a small factor can make a significant difference in the amount of compensation you may be eligible to receive — including whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt. Read on to learn why.
New York's Seatbelt Defense
In New York State, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, it could negatively impact your personal injury claim. This is due to what is known as the “Seatbelt Defense,” which states that a plaintiff's failure to wear a seatbelt can be used by the defendant's attorneys to reduce or deny compensation for damages. In other words, if you weren't wearing a seatbelt when the collision occurred, you may have fewer legal protections than someone who did buckle up.
Why Does a Seatbelt Affect My Claim?
Although New York's seatbelt laws only began applying to all passengers in 2020, use has been highly encouraged for decades. Seatbelts have continuously proven to reduce the severity of injuries in a crash, and not wearing one can make passengers more susceptible to injury or even death. Because of this, compensation can be calculated to assess what your injuries might have been if a seat belt had been worn. This is generally the basis of the Seatbelt Defense — the compensation received will be the difference between injuries with and without a seat belt.
However, it is important to note that for this defense to be utilized, it must be shown that there is a direct connection between your injuries and the lack of a seatbelt. That being said, taking the steps you can to reduce injuries is never a bad idea. If you're getting behind the wheel or are just a passenger in someone else's vehicle, remember to buckle up!
Basch & Keegan LLP is eager to help protect your rights in a car accident claim. If you need legal assistance after a crash, call (845) 251-4545 to discuss your options with our experienced New York attorneys.