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Can a New Hampshire Car Accident Victim Recover for Injuries if They Were not Wearing Their Seat Belt?

August 14, 2019

New Hampshire car accidents claim upwards of 90 lives per year. Many of these accidents involve the fault of multiple parties. As we have discussed in previous posts, New Hampshire uses the modified comparative fault doctrine when determining whether an accident victim can recover for their injuries. Under this doctrine, an accident victim can pursue a New Hampshire personal injury claim, so long as their fault is less than the combined fault of all defendants. In other words, as long as the accident victim was less than 50% at fault for the accident, they can bring a claim.

Not surprisingly, given how the comparative fault doctrine works, defendants frequently claim that an accident was not their fault, but was instead caused by the plaintiff’s negligence. One question that often arises is whether a defendant can point to a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt as evidence of the plaintiff’s negligence. In New Hampshire, the answer is “no.”

Almost every state in the U.S. has at least some kind of law specifying when motorists need to wear their seat belt. In fact, New Hampshire is the only state with no seat belt law on the books. (Note: children are required to be safely secured in car seats, and minors under the age of 18 are required to wear a seat belt). Not surprisingly, in a recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, researchers found that just 69% of New Hampshire motorists wear their seat belts compared to 86% of motorists nationwide.

As a result of the lack of a New Hampshire seat belt law, motorists are under no legal obligation to wear their seat belt. And while wearing a seat belt is always a good idea, technically speaking, a motorist’s decision not to buckle up is not evidence of negligence. Thus, in a New Hampshire car accident case, the defendant is not able to claim that the plaintiff was negligent for failing to wear a seat belt.

The same logic applies to New Hampshire motorcycle accidents where a motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet. Because there is no law requiring adult motorcyclists wear a helmet, the fact that an injury victim failed to do so is not considered evidence of their negligence. These laws are very important to New Hampshire accident victims. Not only do they prevent a defendant from preventing a plaintiff from bringing a lawsuit, but they also preclude the jury from reducing a plaintiff’s award amount based on a failure to wear a helmet or seat belt.

Of course, everyone should wear seat belts and helmets because they are proven to reduce instances of severe injury and death. However, the fact that someone was not wearing a seat belt or helmet cannot be used against them in a New Hampshire personal injury case.

Have You Been Injured in a New Hampshire Car Accident?

If you recently were injured in a New Hampshire car accident, contact the dedicated injury attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates. At our Concord personal injury law firm, we handle all types of claims, including New Hampshire car crashes, semi-truck accidents, and other motor vehicle collisions. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 800-804-2004 to schedule a free consultation today.