Seatbelt Use Considerations in a Civil Case: Contributory/Comparative Negligence

6/23/2017

Seatbelt Use Considerations in a Civil Case

Photo of highway with hands buckling up a seatbelt shown over the highway.In a civil trial, defendants are typically allowed to assert a variety of defenses in an attempt to lessen the damages they will ultimately have to pay to an injured plaintiff.

Three of these defenses—contributory negligence, comparative negligence and failure to mitigate damages—deal with a plaintiff’s culpability for their injuries and ask whether the plaintiff might also be at fault for their injuries.

Contributory and comparative negligence address the injured plaintiff’s failure to act prudently or reasonably. Some states treat contributory negligence as a complete bar to recovery. Other states treat comparative negligence as a factor in determining the extent to which the plaintiff’s recovery should be lessened. Mitigation, or failure to mitigate damages, is a legal principle that states a party who has suffered a loss has to take reasonable action to minimize the loss suffered.

In automobile collision cases, when a driver or passenger has been injured, states vary on whether to allow evidence of a plaintiff’s use of a seatbelt as a means to demonstrate contributory negligence, comparative negligence or failure to mitigate damages.

The following table has information on whether states allow evidence of a person’s seatbelt use to be used to demonstrate negligence or to mitigate damages in a civil trial.

The box allows you to conduct a full text search or type the state name.

State Seatbelt Use Considerations
STATE ADMISSIBLE NEGLIGENCE ADMISSIBLE DAMAGES/
MITIGATION
STATUTE/CASE LAW

Alabama

No

No

Ala. Code 1975 § 32-5B-7

Alaska

Yes

Yes

Hutchins v. Schwartz, 724 P.2d 1194 (Alaska, 1986)

Arizona

Yes

Yes

Law v. Superior Court In and For Maricopa County, 157 Ariz. 147 (Ariz., 1988)

Arkansas

Yes

Yes

Mendoza v. WIS International, Inc. Ark. Apr. 14, 20161

California

Yes

Yes

West's Ann. Cal. Vehicle Code § 27315

Colorado

No

Yes2

C.R.S.A. § 42-4-237

Connecticut

No

No

C.G.S.A. § 14-100a

Delaware

No

No

21 Del. C. § 4802

D.C.

No

No

DC ST § 50-1807

Florida

Yes

No

West's F.S.A. § 316.614

Georgia

No

No

Ga. Code Ann., § 40-8-76.1

Guam

No

No

16 G.C.A. § 27105

Hawaii

 

 

No statute or case law found

Idaho

Yes

Yes

Repealed I.C. § 49-673(8) in 2014

Illinois

No

No

625 ILCS 5/12-603.1

Indiana

No

No

IC 9-19-10-7

Iowa

No

Yes3

I.C.A. § 321.445

Kansas

No

No

K.S.A. 8-2504

Kentucky

 

 

Case and statutory law are unsettled

Louisiana

No

No

LSA-R.S. 32:295.1(E)

Maine

No

No

29-A M.R.S.A. § 2081

Maryland

No

No

MD Code, Transportation, § 22-412.3

Massachusetts4

No

No

M.G.L.A. 90 § 13A

Michigan

Yes5

Yes

M.C.L.A. 257.710e(h)(8)

Minnesota

No

No

M.S.A. § 169.685

Mississippi

No

Yes

Miss. Code Ann. § 63-2-3

Missouri

No

Yes6

V.A.M.S. 307.178

Montana

No

No

MCA 61-13-106

Nebraska

No

Yes5

Neb. Rev. St. § 60-6,273

Nevada

No

Unsure

N.R.S. 484D.495

New Hampshire7

No

No

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 265:107-a

New Jersey

Separate damages pertaining to failure to wear seatbelt, and apportion them to parties

Waterson v. General Motors Corp., 544 A.2d 357, 376, 111 N.J. 238, 275 (N.J., 1988)

New Mexico

No

No

N. M. S. A. 1978, § 66-7-373

New York

No

Yes8

McKinney's Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1229-c7

North Carolina

No

No

N.C.G.S.A. § 20-135.2A

North Dakota

No

No

NDCC, 39-21-41.4

Northern M. Is.

 

 

No statute or case law found

Ohio

No

Yes9

R.C. § 4513.263

Oklahoma10

Yes

Yes

47 Okl. St. Ann. § 12-420

Oregon

No

Yes5

O.R.S. § 31.760

Pennsylvania

No

No

75 Pa. C.S.A. § 4581

Puerto Rico

 

 

No statute or case law found

Rhode Island

No

No

Gen. Laws 1956, § 31-22-22

South Carolina

No

No

Code 1976 § 56-5-6540

South Dakota

No

No

SDCL § 32-38-4

Tennessee

No

No

T. C. A. § 55-9-604

Texas

Yes

Yes

V.T.C.A., Transportation Code §545.413(g) repealed by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., Ch. 204, § 8.0111

Utah

No

No

U.C.A. 1953 § 41-6a-1806

Vermont

No

No

23 V.S.A. § 1259

Virginia

No

No

VA Code Ann. § 46.2-1092

Virgin Islands

 

 

No statute or case law found

Washington

No

No

West's RCWA 46.61.688

West Virginia

No

No12

W. Va. Code, § 17C-15-49

Wisconsin

Yes

Yes13

W.S.A. 347.48

Wyoming

No

No

W.S.1977 § 31-5-1402