Supreme Court of Texas: Seatbelt use admissible in personal injury suits

A recent case discusses whether or not the use of seatbelts can be allowed as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit.

The Supreme Court of Texas recently heard a case that questioned whether or not juries should be provided with evidence of seatbelt use during cases involving injuries from car crashes. The issue is an important one, as a failure to wear a seatbelt can contribute to any injuries sustained in the accident.

The Supreme Court of Texas Blog published a piece on the case, noting it answered this question through the application of two forms of analysis: the evolution of both personal injury lawsuits and the seatbelt use law in the state.

Texas state law and personal injury lawsuits

The state law regarding personal injury suits has evolved over the years. Originally, Texas was considered a contributory-negligence state. This meant that a plaintiff could be completely barred from receiving any award from a lawsuit if the defendant could establish that the plaintiff was even slightly responsible for his or her injuries. The current system is referred to as a comparative negligence system. This means that the plaintiff can still recover a monetary award even if he or she bears some responsibility for the injuries.

Texas state law and seatbelt use

The second change involves the state’s stance on seatbelt use. The state has developed a strict stance on seatbelt use. Some examples of applicable laws include:

  • Seatbelts and adult use. In most cases, any person who is 15 years of age or over and is in a seat that has a safety belt is expected to use the safety belt. Failure to do so is a violation of state law.
  • Seatbelts and child use. Current law requires children under the age of eight that are less than four feet, nine inches tall to be in a child passenger safety seat. Additional regulations are in place regarding children that are under 17 years of age and not required to be in a child seat. Essentially, these regulations require children in this category to be secured with a seatbelt.

The case touched on cases involving injuries to children, noting the adult responsible for the child may be partially responsible for the injuries to the child.

Impact of the case

Ultimately, the court allowed for admission of evidence regarding seatbelt use. After hearing that there was conflicting evidence on seatbelt use in this specific accident, the jury found the plaintiffs were 49 percent responsible for the accident and the defendant was 51 percent responsible. This resulted in a reduction to the monetary award given to the plaintiff.

This case provides an example of one of the many defenses that can be used for those accused of causing a motor vehicle accident in Texas. Those who are facing these accusations are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced truck and car accident defense lawyer to help protect their legal rights.