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Use of the safety belt defense~The New York experience
Published October 03, 1983 by Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine in United States
For almost 20 years now, American automobile drivers and passengers have been bombarded with advice to ""buckle up for safety."" Studies by the medical and scientific community have removed any doubt that the automobile safety belt, properly installed and worn, offers the single best protection now available against suffering serious injuries in automobile crashes.
Yet, American adults are uniformly free to choose whether or not to wear their restriants since no state has yet imposed a mandatory usage law. And, in the face of overwhelming reasons why they should buckle up, safety belt usage in the United States has, until recently, been declining.
What many Americans do not realize is that their personal decision not to fasten their safety belts could have a devastating impact upon them financially as well as physically. A number of State courts, including the New York courts, now permit juries to impose genuine monetary penalties upon automobile accident victims who have failed to use available safety belts. In such instances, an injured party who seets damages against a party who negligently caused a collision may find his expectedly high compensatory award unexpectedly reduced when it is shown that his injuries would have been less severe had he bothered to buckle up. For example, where a passenger is thrown against the windshield and injured in a collision, he may not be entitled to recover for any of those injuries if expert testimony proves that, had he been restrained, he would never have hit the windshield.