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Court Finds that Plaintiff’s Failure to Wear Seat Belt Can Be Raised as a Defense

Everyone knows that you should wear a seat belt. But can a victim be held liable for failing to wear a seat belt? In a recent case, a state supreme court allowed a defendant to argue that a plaintiff was partially at fault for her own injuries for failing to use a seat belt.

In that case, the woman was in a car accident when she was sitting in the backseat of someone’s car. The driver of the car ran into a parked excavator, and the woman sued the driver and his employer. The defendants argued that the woman was at fault, since she was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. At the time the case was argued, Arkansas law generally did not allow evidence of a failure to wear a seat belt to be used in civil cases. However, the court found that this law actually regulated a court procedure, which could only be regulated by the courts. Therefore, the law was unconstitutional and could not be enforced, and the seat belt defense could be raised.

Seat Belt Defenses in Illinois

In Illinois, a defendant normally cannot raise the issue of a party’s failure to wear a seat belt as a defense. In 1985, the Illinois Supreme Court held that evidence of damages caused by a party’s failure to use a seat belt was not admissible with respect to either the question of liability or the question of damages. At that time, there was no law requiring people to wear seat belts, so the plaintiff did not have a duty to wear one.

In addition, the Illinois legislature subsequently passed a law that generally prohibits evidence of a failure to wear a seat belt. 625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/12-603.1 states that a failure to wear a seat belt cannot be considered as evidence of negligence, will not limit the liability of an insurer, and will not reduce a recovery of damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a motor vehicle. The law does not preclude all seat belt evidence, but in general it precludes evidence of a failure to wear a seat belt in determining that a person was negligent. Nevertheless, there are exceptions. For example, if an accident arises in another state or involves drivers of different states, another state’s law may apply. State laws vary, and some allow such evidence.

Have You Been in an Accident in Which Someone Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

If you have been involved in a car accident, and you or another person involved was not wearing a seat belt, you need to know whether the seat belt defense can be raised. The issue can be especially tricky in cases involving parties of different states or arising across state lines. The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Moll Law Group are here to help you and to pursue the compensation you deserve. If you were involved in an accident, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-462-1700 to arrange a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Spring 2016 Moll Law Group College Scholarship Winner is . . ., Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, April 18, 2016.

Evidence of Lack of Insurance Determined Irrelevant in Car Accident Claim, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, April 30, 2016.

Court Considers Causation Issues in Defective Gun Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2016.

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