Idaho’s Safety Restraint Defense Law
“Can an insurance company deny my car accident claim if I didn’t have my seatbelt on at the time of the crash?”
This is a common question in Idaho because the laws changed recently and many people are unaware of the change. As of July 1, 2014, the Idaho legislature made it legal for insurance companies and defendants in a car accident lawsuit to use evidence that the victim was not wearing a safety device to mitigate their damages.
Idaho Code §6-1608 provides that an affirmative defense for the failure to wear a safety restraint will be permitted after a hearing is held before the court, and the court finds a “reasonable likelihood” that the defendant will prove the allegations in court.
Although the statute specifically states that the safety belt defense will not be used to determine comparative fault, it can be used for the allocation of damages. In other words, if the defendant is successful, the court won’t let the defendant argue you were more than half at fault for your injuries so you should not receive anything. However, the court will allow the defense to argue your compensation should be decreased because you contributed to your injury by not wearing a safety device.
Get an Attorney Now!
If there is a chance your claim could be compromised by your failure to wear a safety belt, you should consult an Idaho car accident attorney now. The burden of proof is on the insurance company and the defendant. An experienced attorney may be able to help you successfully fight the defense.
Are There Exceptions to The Safety Belt Defense in Idaho?
Yes, the Idaho legislature included some exceptions to the use of the safety restraint defense in its law. The first exception has to deal with injury victims who are minors. The seat belt defense cannot be used when the victim is a minor who has not reached the age to qualify for driver’s training. However, the defense is admissible when the parent is the plaintiff seeking damages for the wrongful death of a minor child when the parent failed to comply with the seat belt law for children.
Another exception is when the plaintiff’s claim is under an underinsured insurance policy or uninsured insurance policy. Even though these exceptions are limited and few, a defendant will not always win when using the safety restraint defense. The burden of proof is on the defendant or the insurance company to provide sufficient and convincing evidence that warrants the apportionment of damages. Furthermore, your attorney will vigorously argue to have the apportionment of damages be as much in your favor as possible.
What is the Seat Belt Law in Idaho?
Under Idaho Code §49-673, every person riding in a motor vehicle is required to wear a safety restraint. Children should be restrained in car seats or baby seats that are appropriate and designed for the child’s age, weight, and height. Failure to wear a safety belt can result in a citation and a fine. Adult drivers are ticketed and fined if anyone under 18 years of age is not properly restrained. Court costs are also added to the fine for this traffic violation. A list of the fines and costs is available from the Idaho Supreme Court’s website.