Seatbelts and Car Accident Claims

If you were injured in a car wreck you are often concerned with various issues. One issue may be if you were not wearing your seatbelt when your collision occurred. If the police officers documented this fact on the police report, then the insurance company will find out about it once they receive the police report. You should discuss your case with our car accident injury lawyer Doug Goyen. Attorney Goyen has represented thousands of people for car accident injuries since 1997 including cases where the injured person was not wearing a seatbelt.

SEATBELTS SAVE LIVES IN TEXAS

In 2018, 111 of the 264 unrestrained teen drivers and passengers killed in car accidents in Texas were killed.

Nearly half of Texas teenagers killed in car accidents in 2018 were not wearing seat belts. Accidents involving motor vehicles are the leading cause of death among adolescents, but one simple click could help change that. That is why the Texas Department of Transportation’s “Teen Click It or Ticket” campaign encourages teens to click it every time they get in a car.

Obtaining a driver’s license is a rite of passage for teenagers, but when they begin driving, they fail to consider how their lack of experience puts them at a higher risk of being involved in an accident. Because tragedy can strike at any time, all parents, teachers, and other influencers should encourage teens to buckle up every time, no matter how short the trip.

All drivers and passengers in Texas are required by law to wear seat belts. Unbelted drivers and passengers, including those in the back seat, face fines and fees of up to $200.

Seat belts keep passengers and drivers from being thrown from a moving vehicle, which is almost always fatal. Seat belt use reduces the risk of death in a car accident by 45 percent. The figure rises to 60% in pickup truck accidents.

HOW WILL MY CASE BE AFFECTED BY THE LACK OF A SEATBELT?

Personal injury lawyers frequently encounter legal issues that must be navigated in order to obtain a settlement for their clients. Over the years, our attorneys have worked all over Texas and Dallas as a personal injury lawyer for thousands of clients, assisting in determining the rights of those injured in automobile accidents.

Whether or not you are wearing a seatbelt is usually irrelevant in a personal injury case – usually. This is not to say that the adjuster will not try to use this against you in negotiations, but it does mean that if we have to go to trial, it is unlikely that the evidence of whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt will come into play.

The defense lawyers typically use the following arguments to try to get the evidence admitted. I’ll explain why those arguments do not allow evidence of seatbelt use or non-use into evidence.

The argument of Contributory Negligence: An insurance company’s or defendant’s attorney may attempt to introduce evidence demonstrating the injured plaintiff’s “contributory negligence.” The problem with this theory is that contributory negligence contributes to the accident’s cause. In other words, if not for the alleged misconduct, the accident would not have occurred. Negligent actions that merely increase or add to the extent of loss or injury caused by someone else’s negligence do not constitute contributory negligence that precludes a person from recovering from a defendant.

In a DWI manslaughter case, Texas courts clearly explained the reasoning. When the defendant (drunk driver) caused the accident, he killed someone in another vehicle. The defendant’s lawyer attempted to argue “contributory negligence” by claiming that the decedent caused their own death by failing to wear a seatbelt. This argument was rejected by the court, which stated that “failure to wear a seatbelt alone was not sufficient to cause the decedent’s death.” The death would not have occurred if the defendant driver had not driven recklessly. Torres v. State, 2000 Tex. App LEXIS 5413 at *14-15 (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi 2000, no pet.) (unpublished).

Contributory negligence is applied to the proximate cause of the initial accident.

The argument of Failure to Mitigate: Many insurance or defense lawyers will try to argue that the injured person “failed to mitigate” their damages by not wearing a seatbelt. This means you did not make an effort to keep your damages to a minimum (which is usually required – you can’t just sit back and let your damages run amok if you have some control over the costs).

When it comes to failing to wear a seatbelt, Texas courts have rejected this argument. A failure to mitigate defense does not allow for conduct that occurred prior to the defendant’s wrongful behavior. The failure to wear a seatbelt occurs prior to the defendant’s wrongful conduct, which causes the accident. In other words, a person cannot prevent damages from occurring. As a result, no seatbelt cases are not eligible for this defense.

Failure to mitigate refers to the injured party’s actions after he has been injured and how he attempts to limit the extent of his damages. It does not address the actions taken prior to the injury (the failure to put on a seatbelt).

Contact our Dallas car accident lawyer to discuss your case. We can be reached at (972) 599 4100.

By Doug Goyen, douggoyen@gmail.com

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