Illustration of a three-point seatbelt.
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Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Margaret Dolan from Athens, PA who died following a car crash in Litchfield, PA.  As noted in the Star-Gazette story below, unfortunately it appears that Ms. Dolan may not have been wearing a seatbelt.  Although I ALWAYS recommend that people wear a seatbelt, people often ask me if the fact that someone was NOT wearing a seatbelt, means that an injured person is disqualified from bringing a lawsuit?

The simple answer is:


Let me explain why this makes sense…..

First, despite how helpful seatbelts can be in preventing injury or death in most accidents, the simple fact remains that people get badly hurt and killed even when they ARE wearing their seatbelts.  Accordingly, you can’t just say that a person would not have been injured or killed if they were wearing their seatbelt.  Both NY and PA law recognize that fact and therefore do not automatically let the driver who caused the collision off the hook just because their victim was not wearing a seatbelt.  Accordingly, the law requires the negligent party who wants to claim the lack of a seatbelt as a defense to their negligence, to prove, via expert testimony, that if the victim had been wearing a seatbelt that it would have made a difference by minimizing injury or death.

This is just a brief explanation of what can be a complicated issue but the bottom line is that I want people to know that just because they were not wearing a seatbelt does NOT mean that the knucklehead who hit them automatically gets let off the hook.  My best advice is that you should immediately talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer who has dealt with this issue before as they will know exactly how to handle this defense.

Drive safely!

Jim Reed
NY & PA Car Accident Lawyer
800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)

Woman dies two days after crash

Elmira Star-Gazette– DECEMBER 2, 2010, 7:57 AM

A 91-year-old Athens woman died two days after a crash on State Route 1058 in Litchfield Township, according to Pennsylvania State Police out of Towanda.

A 2004 Jeep Liberty driven by 45-year-old Michelle Burt of Sayre was headed westbound at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Burt lost control of the vehicle on a right-hand curve and the Jeep crossed into the eastbound lane, striking head-on a 2004 Hyundai Elantra driven by 62-year-old Robert Shaffer of Athens, police said.

Burt and his passenger, 23-year-old Briana Beeman of Sayre, sustained minor injuries, as did Shaffer and his passenger, 61-year-old Sharon Shaffer of Athens.

A second passenger in Shaffer’s car, 91-year-old Margaret Dolan, died Monday while being treated at Robert Packer Hospital. Dolan wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, police said.

— Jennifer Micale