The Texas Supreme Court recently reversed a case from 1974. In that case, the Court ruled that courts could not consider whether or not a plaintiff was wearing a seat belt in automobile accident cases. That ruling found that although a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt could make his or her injuries worse, it can’t cause an accident, and should not affect the ability of a plaintiff to recover.
However, times have changed since 1974, and the Court’s new ruling reflects new attitudes towards seat belts. The case involved a Chevy Suburban with eight occupants which attempted to pass a commercial truck that was slowed down to make a left turn. As the Suburban’s driver crossed into the opposing traffic lane, the truck clipped the Suburban, causing it to run off the highway and roll several times. An adult passenger in the vehicles was killed. It’s unclear which of the occupants were wearing seat belts and which were not, but it’s likely that six or seven of them were not buckled up.
In the trial, the driver of the commercial truck attempted to introduce evidence from an expert which showed that seven of the occupants of the car were not buckled up. The trial court excluded that evidence because of the 1974 ruling. The Supreme Court recently reversed the decision, finding that seat belts are now legally required to be used by law, and are much more prevalent than in 1974. Therefore, courts can reduce a plaintiff’s damages if it finds that he or she failed to buckle up.
This case will change the way that some automobile cases are handled in Texas. The case also shows the vital importance of buckling your seat belt – not only is it required by law, but it can also save your life in the event of an accident. If you have been involved in a car accident, call the Houston automobile accident attorneys at Kennedy Hodges. You can reach us at 888-894-0119, or learn more about us on Twitter.