Can Not Wearing My Seatbelt Affect My Personal Injury Case?

Vehicle passengers in Texas are, by law, required to wear seatbelts. Earlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court even ruled that if you fail to do this and sue or file an insurance claim, the amount of money you receive in a personal injury case may be reduced.

The idea behind this is one of contributory negligence. If you were injured because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt – or if your injuries were worse than they otherwise would have been – you’ve been negligent, according to the Court. Your failure to buckle up certainly can’t cause an accident, but it can make your injuries worse or even lead to your death.

Seatbelts Save Lives

National statistics back this idea up. Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to you during a crash is being ejected from your vehicle. Seatbelts are up to 99 percent effective in keeping you from being ejected, and in 2012, between 48 and 54 percent of people killed in auto accidents weren’t wearing their seatbelts. Nationally, more than 11,000 lives are saved yearly by seatbelts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This court decision overturns the Texas Supreme Court’s 1974 ruling, which said that information about seatbelt usage wasn’t admissible in auto accident cases.

The Court reversed that ruling based on the following:

Negligence Laws

The laws governing negligence have changed since the 1974 ruling. In the past, you could be barred from recovering any money at all in a personal injury case if you were in the least bit negligent. Now, however, Texas has a system of comparative negligence. You may have contributed to your injuries by not belting up, but as long as the other driver is more than 50 percent at fault, you’ll still be able to recover damages. The amount may be reduced, however.

Seatbelt Laws

Seatbelt usage wasn’t mandatory in 1974, but it has been the law in Texas since 1985. In the early 1970s, car manufacturers had been required to install seatbelts as standard equipment for just a few years. Even then, as few as 14 percent of people nationwide wore seatbelts in 1984. Laws in the state have become stricter through the years, now including all passengers (including adults) in the back seat. In fact, fines can be as high as $200 for failing to buckle up. Drivers also have a responsibility to make sure that anyone age 17 or younger is properly restrained.

There’s evidence that the law and changing attitudes are making a difference in seatbelt usage. Over 90 percent of people in Texas now buckle up.

If you need help with an auto accident case, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. They can represent you and protect your interests in dealings with the other driver and their insurance company.

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