How Seatbelt Use Can Impact Car Accident CasesMarch 6, 2018
When car crashes happen, wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk of moderate to catastrophic injuries by 50 percent – and the risk of deadly injuries by 45 percent.1 Despite this – and the fact that Texas law mandates seatbelt (or child seat) use for those traveling in motor vehicles, about 1 in every 10 people in Texas are still not buckling up.2
Failing to use seatbelts can intensify the injuries suffered in the event of a traffic collision. It can also have significant impacts on victims’ financial recoveries when it is time to pursue a car accident claim in Texas. Understanding Texas seatbelt and negligence laws can elucidate these impacts.
Texas Seatbelt Laws
Texas has primary seatbelt laws,3 meaning that law enforcement officers can pull over a vehicle and ticket a driver for failing to wear a seatbelt (as opposed to a secondary law, which would only permit an officer to issue a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt if the driver had been pulled over for a primary violation, like speeding). Consequently, failure to use a seatbelt constitutes a violation of Texas law.
In the event of a car accident, victims who were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash:
- Were violating Texas law and contributed to their own injuries
- Can be deemed at least partly at fault for the injuries and damage.
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Texas Negligence Law
Can accident victims who are partly at fault for their injuries still be entitled to compensation?
The answer lies in Texas negligence law.
Like 22 other states, Texas follows the Modified Comparative Fault, 51 percent Bar Rule.4 According to this law, accident victims can recover as long as they are 50 percent or less at fault. Essentially, this means that another party must have been more at fault (than the victim) for causing an accident in order for the victim to be eligible for financial recovery.
The law in Texas also stipulates that, when victims are partly at fault, their recoveries will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
So, if a car accident victim is determined to be 40 percent at fault for the crash and damage, the financial recovery would be reduced by 40 percent.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to car accident claims involving failures to wear a seatbelt, in Texas:
- Victims CAN still be entitled to financial recovery.
- Those recoveries CAN be reduced because failures to buckle up violate Texas law and contribute to the injuries.
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1: According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
2: According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
3: Texas seatbelt laws
4: Texas negligence law