New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation today requiring all passengers age 16 and older who are riding in the back seat of a passenger vehicle to wear a seat belt.
The law takes effect on November 1, 2020 and expands the previous law requiring only front seat passengers age 16 and older to be belted in.
Once the new law takes effect, how could that impact personal injury cases where an injured back seat passenger is not wearing a seat belt?
New York is a comparative negligence state, which means that fault can be shared between the parties. In other words, failure to wear a seat belt doesn’t preclude you from filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit. However, not wearing a seat belt could make your injuries more severe and reduce the amount you are compensated for those injuries.
For example, let’s say you are driving on a two lane road and a driver coming toward you drifts into your lane and hits you head on. You aren’t wearing a seat belt and are ejected from the vehicle. Though the accident is clearly the other driver’s fault, the insurance company will try to place some percentage of the blame for your injuries on you because you were not wearing a seat belt.
They will argue that if you had been wearing a seat belt, you would not have been injured at all or your injuries would have been greatly reduced. The insurance company will try to determine the cost of the “extra injuries” and not pay that portion of your claim. This could result in a settlement offer that does not fairly compensate you for your lost wages and pain and suffering. This new law serves as a good reminder of why it is important not to take on the insurance company yourself-they are experts at minimizing payouts in order to maximize their profits.
Wear a seat belt every time you are in a car. Seat belts save lives.
If you, a friend or loved one is injured in an auto accident, consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.
To read Gov. Cuomo’s announcement, click here.
Sarah P. Rera is an experienced litigation attorney who focuses her practice in the areas of personal injury and business litigation. She can be reached at Gross Shuman P.C. by calling 716-854-4300 ext. 289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.