Can A Plaintiff Be Faulted For Not Wearing A Seatbelt In An Indiana Auto Accident?
of all States require all adults in a vehicle to wear safety belts and
in all States children must be in restraints. Not too long ago Indiana
also expanded its safety belt law to cover rear-seat occupants. Even
though Indiana law requires adults and children to wear safety belts,
evidence of the failure to use a seatbelt is inadmissible in a lawsuit
for injuries in an auto collision for the reason that the lack of a
seatbelt does not constitute a “proximate cause” of the injuries
sustained in the car crash.
Indiana has an active Statute that requires motor vehicle occupants to wear seatbelts. The statute states the following:
occupant of a motor vehicle equipped with a safety belt that: (1) meets
the standards stated in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard
Number 208 (49 CFR 571.208); and (2) is standard equipment installed by
the manufacturer; shall have a safety belt properly fastened about the
occupant’s body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion.
Code Ann. § 9-19-10-2 (West). Another portion of Statute, IC 9-19-10-7,
expressly forbids evidence of the failure to wear a seatbelt for the
purpose of demonstrating fault or for the purpose of showing failure to
mitigate the person’s damage. It should be noted that Indiana case law
has excluded several vehicles from this statute. “The term ‘vehicle,’ as
used in the seat belt enforcement statute … is a ‘passenger motor
vehicle,’ and does not include trucks, tractors, and recreational
vehicles, but does include sport utility vehicles (SUVs). State v.
Price, App.2000, 724 N.E.2d 670.
In the 1999 case of Hopper v. Carey,
716 N.E.2d 566 (1999), the Indiana Court of Appeals carefully analyzed
the seatbelt defense in the State of Indiana. That case involved the
driver of a fire truck and his son brought against another motorist and a
company which had paved the road. The company wished to bring in
evidence that the driver and his son were not wearing seatbelts. The
Court held: (1) [a] seatbelt defense is not admissible to demonstrate
fault under the common law defense of contributory negligence or the
Comparative Fault Act, and (2) defense of incurred risk [by the driver]
is likewise unavailable unless the defendant has actual knowledge of a
specific risk, which means more than a general awareness that a future
accident is possible. Hopper v. Carey, 716 N.E.2d 566 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). One unique situation came in in the case of Burge v. Teter.
That court held that evidence that motorist’s children were not
restrained in a child restraint system at time of accident could not be
used to prove contributory fault and therefore, could not be used to
mitigate damages. Burge v. Teter,
808 N.E.2d 124 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004). On the other hand, the Indiana
Supreme Court spoke to the issue of not wearing a seatbelt as “misuse of
a vehicle” in the products liability case of Morgen v. Ford Motor Co.
The court claimed that “When a manufacturer does not reasonably expect
it, a plaintiff’s failure to use available safety devices can constitute
misuse in a crashworthiness case.” Morgen v. Ford Motor Co., 797 N.E.2d 1146, 1149 (Ind. 2003). Therefore not wearing a seatbelt can be brought up under certain specific circumstances.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident contact the Indianapolis law offices of William “Bill” Hurst
or call toll free at 1(800)636-0808 to speak with an experienced
personal injury attorney. We have more than 35 years of experience
helping accident victims get results and fair financial compensation for
their personal injuries.!Hablamos Espa?ol!
http://blog.billhurst.com/2012/03/school-bus-crash-ignites-seatbelt-debate/Half of all States require all adults in a vehicle to wear safety
belts and in all States children must be in restraints. Not too long ago
Indiana also expanded its safety belt law to cover rear-seat occupants.
Even though Indiana law requires adults and children to wear safety
belts, evidence of the failure to use a seatbelt is inadmissible in a
lawsuit for injuries in an auto collision for the reason that the lack
of a seatbelt does not constitute a “proximate cause” of