Tracy Morgan crash raises issue of seat belt use in personal injury cases, P.3

In our last post, we continued our discussion about the potential impact of failure to wear a seat belt in personal injury litigation. The discussion was prompted by a recent government report highlighting the fact that Tracy Morgan and other passengers involved in New Jersey car accident last year were not wearing safety belts at the time of the crash.

As we’ve noted, failure to wear a seat belt cannot be used as evidence of contributory negligence, but it can be admitted for demonstrating failure to mitigate damages. If it is determined that the plaintiff did fail to mitigate damages, his or her recovery may not be reduced by more than one percent of the damages awarded after figuring in any reductions due to comparative negligence.

Mitigation of damages, then, can only account for a rather small reduction in overall damages. Still, every little bit counts when it comes to maximizing damages. It bears repeating, though, that it isn’t always going to be easy for a defendant to successfully argue for failure to mitigate damages based on not wearing a seat belt. It really depends on the circumstances of the case.

Because a plaintiff’s contributory negligence can result in a significant reduction in damages, it is critical for plaintiffs facing this possibility to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. Building a strong case can help a plaintiff to make a strong case for liability and maximize his or her damages award by reducing the possibility of reductions in damages.



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