Is the Safety Belt Defense Used in Louisiana Car Accident Lawsuits?
In some states, a defendant in a car accident lawsuit can argue that the driver or passenger in the other vehicle was injured because he was not wearing a safety belt. The court or jury can then use this evidence to reduce the amount of compensation the victim can receive. However, Louisiana does not recognize this defense. Louisiana statutes specifically exempt this argument in car accident cases.
Even though the law is clear, insurance adjusters may try to use this defense to lower payments on claims. If a victim does not have an attorney, he or she may not know the law regarding the seat belt defense. Our Louisiana attorneys understand this law and each of the laws applicable in a car crash lawsuit. Hiring an experienced lawyer can be a crucial step in ensuring you receive the compensation you are entitled to receive by law for your damages and injuries in a car crash claim.
What is the Law About Safety Belts in Louisiana?
LA Rev Stat § 32:295.1 (2016) in section A(1) states that “each driver” shall have a seat belt “property fastened” when the vehicle is moving forward. Section B continues to state that passengers shall also have seat belts when the vehicle is moving forward. Children under the age of 13 shall be restrained in a child safety seat or infant car seat that is appropriate for their age, weight, and height. Failing to wear a safety restraint can result in a fine.
However, in section E of the statute, the law states that in a lawsuit for damages the defendant cannot use the failure to wear a safety belt as evidence of comparative negligence. The section continues to state specifically that failing to wear a seatbelt cannot be “admitted to mitigate damages.”
This section is very important because of comparative negligence. Louisiana’s negligence laws allow a victim’s compensation to be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the victim for the accident.
If the legislature had not specifically denied the seat belt defense, a defendant could admit evidence that the victim was not wearing a seat belt. The argument would be that wearing safety restraints reduce the risk of injury in a car crash. Therefore, the victim’s injuries are partially his fault because he failed to take the precautions a prudent person would take when riding in an automobile. The jury would assign a percentage of fault, and the victim’s compensation would be reduced by that percentage under Louisiana’s comparative negligence law.
Thankfully, the safety belt defense is not valid in Louisiana.
Please Wear Your Seat Belts!
Even though a defendant cannot use this defense in a car accident lawsuit, we urge you to obey the law and wear your safety restraints. Children need to be restrained according to the law regarding child seats and car seats. Many studies have shown that wearing seat belts saves lives and reduces the risk of serious injury in motor vehicle accidents. Please buckle up for safety each time you are in a vehicle.