On April 12, 2007, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was in a serious car accident involving multiple fractures and surgeries. We wish him a speedy and full recovery.
Governor Corzine’s vehicle after the accident.
Unfortunately, the governor was not wearing a seat belt. Also, his vehicle was travelling at about 91 mph for a non-emergency meeting. Governor Corzine received the most serious injuries of his vehicle’s occupants. The others did not sustain fractures.
Both New York and New Jersey have mandatory seat belt laws. Also, infants must be secured in car seats.
Seat belts and shoulder restraints do not eliminate every injury. Indeed, spine injuries can occur despite the use of seat and shoulder restraints. However, seat and shoulder belts are effective to prevent catastrophic injuries where a high impact collision can either eject an occupant from the car or have the occupant tossed inside the vehicle. For example, the crash caused Governor Corzine to be thrown from the front seat to cargo bay of his SUV.
Therefore, we repeat the well known refrain, “BUCKLE-UP FOR SAFETY.”
If you have any questions regarding a car accident, please contact our office by calling (800) 581-1434.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If am injured but did not wear a seat belt will I be barred from having a claim and lawsuit?
A: No. However, the jury can weigh whether some or all of your injuries would have been prevented by the use of an available seat belt.
Q: If I did not use a seat belt, do I have to prove that my injuries would have occurred regardless of whether or not I had used the seat belt?
A: No. Defendant must prove that your injuries would not have occurred in whole or in part if you had worn a seat belt.
Q: How does defendant go about proving this?
A:Defendant has to prove this by a either a bio-mechanical engineer and or a physician or both. A bio-mechanical engineer specializes in accident reconstruction and the effects of physical forces on the human body. The engineer would have to show that due to the physical forces of the accident your injury would have been prevented or lessened if a seat belt had been used.
Q: What is the practical effect of failing to use a seat belt?
A: The practical effect is that it will be a bargaining chip with the insurance company during settlement negotiations. Also, the jury may consider it in its decision even where there is no bio-mechanical testimony presented by defendant. The jury may consider the defense physician’s opinion.
(This article was originally published in the Spring, 2007, in both our newsletter and our website. Mark E. Seitelman, www.seitelman.com .)