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Failure to Use Seat Belt Now Admissible in Texas Car Accident Suits

For the last 40 years, if you were hurt in a car accident by another driver, whether or not you wore a seat belt was considered immaterial to your injury lawsuit. In a Texas Supreme Court decision earlier this year, however, that law has been reversed, and the plaintiff's seat belt status at the time of the accident will now be factored into the determination of fault for all car accident injuries.

The decision comes from Nabors Well Services Ltd. V. Romero, in which a Nabors Well Services Ltd. truck hit an SUV, killing one passenger and injuring seven others-- five of them children. The survivors sued Nabors for their injuries, but the company went on to point out that seven of the eight SUV passengers were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the collision. However, that evidence, under a law established in 1974, was ruled as inadmissible.

The survivors received a $2.3 million verdict—but Nabors appealed the decision all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. There, justices considered several factors:

  • When the seat belt exclusion law was written in 1974, seat belts were far less common in vehicles than they are now.
  • Since 1974, Texas' laws for determining negligence have changed and the seat belt exclusion law should reflect those changes.

Ultimately, they ruled that the fact that the SUV passengers' seat belt use did matter in determining fault for their injuries. The case was sent down to a lower appeals court for new consideration.

Decision's Effect on Comparative Negligence

Texas has comparative negligence laws, which means that negligence is determined as a percentage and then can be distributed to both defendants and plaintiffs. If a party is found to be at 51% negligent or higher, they become ineligible to collect compensation.

Comparative negligence laws also mean that it can be found that plaintiffs may have partially contributed to their own injuries—and, thus, are entitled to less compensation. With this newest court decision, proceeds for many Texas car accident victims could begin to decline.

That is why it is always critical to have knowledgeable and aggressive legal representation. At Jackson Allen & Williams, LLP, our legal team has more than 50 years of collective experience in protecting our clients' rights and securing them rightful restitution.

Ensure that you stand the best chance at recovering compensation you deserve. Contact us to speak to a proven Dallas personal injury lawyer today!

Categories: Auto Accidents
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