We’re all aware that wearing a seat belt can help save our lives in the event of a car accident. It can also help ensure you’re fully compensated for your damages if the other party was at fault. However, even if you didn’t have your seat belt on during your accident, you have not necessarily disqualified yourself from bringing a case.
The seat belt defense theory
The seat belt defense is when a person is injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence – however, the injured person didn’t have their seat belt on. So, even though the other driver was at fault, the compensation for the injured person’s damages could be reduced because they failed to wear their seat belt.
In some states, the injured party could be barred from recovering compensation completely. And other states don’t allow this defense at all.
Miss. Code Ann. § 63-2-3 (1996) provides that:
This chapter shall not be construed to create a duty, standard of care, right or liability between the operator and passenger of any passenger motor vehicle which is not recognized under the laws of the State of Mississippi as such laws exist on the date of passage of this chapter or as such laws may at any time thereafter be constituted by statute or court decision. Failure to provide and use a seat belt restraint device or system shall not be considered contributory or comparative negligence, nor shall the violation be entered on the driving record of any individual.
Miss. Code Ann. § 63-2-3 thus provides that the non-usage of seat belts may not be “considered contributory or comparative negligence,” but the statute does not forbid the admission of evidence of seat belt non-usage outright.
The Mississippi Supreme Court has concluded that evidence of seat belt non-usage may constitute relevant evidence in some (but by no means all or even most) cases, so long as (1) the evidence has some probative value other than as evidence of negligence; (2) this probative value is not substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect (See Miss. R. Evid. 403) and is not barred by some other rule of evidence and (3) appropriate limiting instructions are given to the jury, barring the consideration of seat belt non-usage as evidence of negligence. See Estate of Hunter v. General Motors Corporation.
The bottom line is, if you were in an accident in Southaven and weren’t wearing your seat belt, the other driver’s insurance company may attempt to limit your damages. We follow a system called comparative fault, which means that if you are responsible in any way for your own injuries, you could see your damages reduced by the percentage you’re found to be at fault. Being at fault, though, doesn’t eliminate your ability to make a claim.
Your personal injury attorney can help if you’re accused of not wearing your seat belt in an accident that wasn’t your fault. Our firm works to ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation to which you’re entitled.
The injury lawyers at Taylor Jones Taylor protect your rights when you’ve been injured in a car accident. We provide honest and reliable representation to clients in the Southaven, Olive Branch, and Hernando areas. To schedule a consultation, call 662.253.5193 or fill out our contact form to learn more.