How Does Seat Belt Use Affect a Texas Personal Injury Case?
Properly wearing a seat belt is one of the most important things that drivers and passengers can do to protect themselves from serious injuries in the event of a car crash. Vehicle occupants who are not securely restrained are more likely to suffer injuries in a secondary collision, meaning an impact that occurs after the initial collision with another vehicle. This includes injuries from colliding with parts of the vehicle in which the person is traveling, as well as objects outside of the vehicle after being ejected.
You may be aware of the increased injury risks associated with not wearing a seatbelt, but it may not be as clear that it can also result in legal consequences, including an impact on the compensation you can recover if you are injured in a crash with another driver. It is important to understand Texas law regarding seat belt use and to work with an attorney who can advise you regarding its impact on your case.
What Does Texas Law Say About Seat Belt Use?
With few exceptions, Texas law requires all motor vehicle occupants to wear a seat belt or be otherwise properly restrained. It is a misdemeanor offense for anyone who is at least 15 years old to ride in a vehicle without a seatbelt, and it is also an offense for a driver to allow minor passengers to ride in their vehicle without proper restraints.
The effect of seat belt use on a civil personal injury case is considerably more complicated. While some states have what is known as a seat belt defense law, explicitly stating that a person’s failure to wear a seat belt can be considered contributory negligence in an accident in which they are injured, Texas currently has no such law. In the past, Texas courts consistently ruled that evidence of an injured person’s seat belt use or lack thereof was inadmissible in a civil tort case, reasoning that the evidence had no bearing on the cause of a crash.
However, this approach has recently changed due to a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling in the case of Nabors Well Servs., Ltd. v. Romero. The court’s ruling held that such evidence is admissible and may be considered in decisions related to proportionate responsibility. This means that Texas courts can now consider whether an injured person’s lack of seat belt use contributed to the severity of their injuries. If the evidence supports that this is the case, the amount of recoverable compensation may be reduced in proportion to the injured person’s responsibility.
Contact Our New Braunfels Personal Injury Attorney
If you are injured in a car accident, you should not assume that you are ineligible for compensation because you were not wearing a seat belt or you think you may have contributed to the crash. Instead, you should contact The Bettersworth Law Firm at 830-606-0404 to schedule a free consultation. Our New Braunfels, TX car crash lawyer can help you build a strong, evidence-based case for the negligence of another party and recover the most compensation possible.