What Happens If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt in My Car Accident?

Failing to buckle up in accordance with New Jersey’s seat belt laws could negatively impact your right to recover compensation after a car accident. Your insurance company or that of the other driver may use this as a reason to avoid liability for your injuries and damages, including medical bills. Find out what happens during your auto accident case if you weren’t wearing a seat belt.

Can I Recover Compensation?

The question of whether you can recover financial compensation for auto accident injuries with no seat belt depends on the situation. This is a potential defense the other driver or the driver’s insurer could raise in an attempt to avoid liability for your injuries. The seat belt defense asserts that since you failed to fulfill your responsibility to wear a seat belt, you should share fault for the injuries suffered.

The success of the seat belt defense will depend on many factors, including the law in the state that is presiding over your injury claim. It is less likely for the seat belt defense to succeed if you did not legally have to wear a seat belt under state law. The circumstances of the accident will also play a factor, such as the type of injury and whether or not it reasonably would have been avoided had you been wearing a seat belt.

To use the seat belt defense, the defendant will need to prove that you were negligent by failing to wear one and that this contributed to your injuries. If the seat belt defense is applicable, how much it will impact your right to recover – if any – will also depend on state law. New Jersey uses a modified comparative fault law, meaning you can still recover compensation even if you are found to be partially to blame for your injuries.

If the seat belt defense does succeed, the courts may subtract an amount from your compensatory award that is equivalent to the percentage of your fault for your injuries. If the courts find you 10% responsible for not wearing a seat belt, for example, they could take 10% out of the amount the defendant owes you for the accident.

Is Wearing a Seat Belt Required By Law in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, the driver and all passengers of a vehicle must wear seat belts that are properly adjusted and fastened. This applies to passengers sitting in the front and back of the vehicle. Furthermore, any child under the age of eight must be restrained using the correct child passenger safety seat. It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure all passengers who lawfully must wear seat belts are doing so.

Fines and Other Penalties for Not Wearing a Seat Belt

Violating New Jersey’s seat belt law can result in a fine of $46 per offense. There is a difference, however, in how the police can enforce New Jersey’s seat belt requirement for different passengers. New Jersey passed a law in 2010 making it a secondary offense for passengers over the age of 18 to ride without a seat belt in the back seat.

It is a primary offense not to buckle up as a front seat passenger, meaning law enforcement can stop the vehicle for no other reason than the seat belt violation. If a back seat passenger does not wear a seat belt, however, this is a secondary offense. A secondary offense means the police officer can only cite the passenger for not wearing a seat belt if the officer stopped the car for another reason, such as speeding or running a red light.

Law enforcement cannot stop a vehicle for a back seat passenger failing to wear a seat belt alone. If passengers do receive citations for failing to buckle up, the $46 ticket is assessed to the driver, as it is the driver’s responsibility to enforce the seat belt rule.

For more information about how not wearing a seat belt could affect your car accident claim, consult with a Jersey City car accident attorney.