Seat Belt Usage in Texas Car Accident Cases
Sometimes a car accident is caused by the obvious negligence of one driver, but other accidents involve drivers who share the responsibility. The Texas Proportionate Responsibility Statute addresses this issue, and it allows that an injured party can seek compensation as long as the percentage of fault allocated to him or her is 50 percent or less. This percentage is usually determined by the jury – at the judge’s instruction. Car accident cases are complicated, and if another driver’s negligence has left you injured, you need an experienced Central Texas personal injury lawyer on your side.
Non-use of Seat Belt
When it comes to the role that non-use of a seat belt plays in a personal injury case, different states take different approaches:
Some states allow evidence of seat belt non-use to be used in the jury’s calculation of the injured party’s percentage of fault.
Some states only allow evidence of seat belt non-use to come into play in calculating damages (after the percentage of liability is already established).
Some states prohibit the inclusion of evidence regarding seat belt non-use entirely.
The Texas Supreme Court recently opined that evidence of seat belt non-use is relevant to determining whether a plaintiff caused – or in any way contributed – to his or her own injuries. In other words, Texas has adopted the most permissive approach when it comes to applying evidence of seat belt non-use in the jury’s apportioning of blame in a car accident.
The Court’s Opinion
The Court bases its opinion on the language of the Proportionate Responsibility Statute, which considers whether the injured party shares responsibility for the “harms” upon which his or her recovery is based – rather than on if he or she is responsible for the accident that caused those injuries. The way the Court sees it is that when a driver chooses to disobey the law and not wear a seat belt, he or she is engaging in conduct that is injury causing (rather than accident causing), and he or she is at least partially responsible for any injuries sustained.
Your Seat Belt Usage
Failing to wear a seat belt every time you get behind the wheel is not only against the law, but it is also an exceedingly dangerous practice. Always make it your habit to make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up every single time.
If, however, another driver’s negligence leaves you injured in an accident in which you were not wearing a seat belt, you need the professional legal counsel of a skilled Central Texas personal injury lawyer.