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Out-of-State Crashes: What Law Should Apply?

February 9, 2015 | Posted In Personal Injury/Negligence - Personal Injury

Cases that cross state lines become tricky for the plaintiff, defendant and the judge who is required to on them because laws vary from state to state, especially in terms of transportation safety. When a person is involved in a car accident outside of his or her home state, the laws from both the home state and the state of the accident may be applicable when determining fault and responsibility, New Jersey personal injury attorneys say.

In a recent lawsuit against a tire manufacturing company for a defective tire that allegedly caused a crash, a Newark federal judge ruled that the company could use a New Jersey law in their defense, even though the crash took place in Illinois. In August of 2009, Raheel Malik of Edison, N.J., was injured when the minivan in which he was a rear-seat passenger crashed on I-64 in Big Mound, Illinois due to a tire malfunction. According to the lawsuit, the tread on the left rear tire delaminated, causing the van to leave the road and roll over. Malik was thrown from the vehicle during the crash.

Following the crash, Malik filed a lawsuit against Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., claiming that the company is liable for his accident and injuries due to the defective manufacturing and design of their product.

His lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Middlesex County, NJ, and moved from there to federal court. The suit states that Cooper’s tire was not constructed with belt edge gum strips which are used to reduce separation of treads and to improve tires’ durability. According to the lawsuit, Cooper knew since 1996 that several tires had been reported as defective with separating treads. Malik’s lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Middlesex County, NJ, and it progressed from there to federal court.

New Jersey vs. Illinois Laws

Illinois law does not require passengers in the rear seats of vehicles to wear seat belts; however, in New Jersey, seat belts are required any time a vehicle is in motion, regardless of where the person is seated. Malik asked the Illinois court to apply its own state law because he was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Cooper Tire pushed for the application of New Jersey law because Malik is from New Jersey and the lawsuit was filed there.

U.S. District Judge William Walls ruled that New Jersey’s interest in the case is greater than that of Illinois because Malik lives there and because the lawsuit was originally filed there. He cited a 1988 ruling regarding New Jersey’s “significant public policy promoting the use of seat belts” which would impact a personal injury suit brought by a plaintiff not wearing one.

At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our personal injury attorneys in New Jersey represent clients who have been injured as a result of a defective product or design in accidents in or out of state. To discuss your case, contact a member of the HCK team for a free, no-strings consultation today.


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