One of the things that can reduce your ability to get full compensation for your injuries after an accident is when the defense attorney is able to prove that you are partially at fault for the injuries you and your family suffered.
For example, if you aren't wearing a seat belt or you don't have your children properly buckled into their booster seats when a car accident happens, you could be handing the opposition a gift that will allow them to defend the person who caused the accident against your claim for compensation.
In New Jersey, if the defense is able to prove that you're more than half at fault for the injuries you suffered, you can't collect any damages at all. Additionally, any damages you are awarded during a court case or trial get reduced by the percentage of fault for the accident that's attributed to you.
That means that if you are determined to be 49 percent responsible for your own injuries because you weren't wearing a seat belt, and the jury awards you $100,000 in total compensation, you'd only receive $51,000. If the jury determines that your failure to "buckle up" was 51 percent behind your injuries, you would collect nothing at all even though you didn't cause the accident.
Seat belts do save lives—looking at accidents where the use of seat belts is known, 49 percent of those who die were unrestrained. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the proper use of child safety seats reduces the risk of fatalities by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers ages 1 to 4 years.
It's important to note that all passengers, even those in the rear seats, are required to wear seat belts in New Jersey (or be otherwise restrained in the proper safety seating if they are a child either under the age of 8 or under 57 inches tall). New Jersey law also puts the responsibility for making sure that all passengers are properly restrained firmly on the vehicle's driver.
Don't let a lapse in judgment cost you additional injuries or the ability to recover fair compensation for an accident. Make sure that you buckle up and make sure that your passengers also comply.
If you are injured in a serious car accident, the advice of an attorney can be very helpful before you decide to settle your claim.
Source: The State of New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety Office of the Attorney General, "Seat/Belt Laws," accessed Feb. 07, 2017