Seat Belt Evidence Admissibility – S.B. 439


Displaces a longstanding provision that had excluded seat belt non-usage

Displaces a longstanding provision that had excluded seat belt non-usage evidence for any purpose if the claimant stipulated to a reduction of damages by a mere five percent. Juries will be allowed to consider and use evidence that a claimant had failed to wear seat belt when they determine the damages resulting from motor vehicle crashes. In the case of adult drivers and passengers who bring product liability claims against vehicle and component sellers, evidence of the claimant’s failure to buckle-up is admissible without limitation. For other types of claims, an adult’s failure to use a seat belt may be considered by juries with respect to the exacerbation and contribution to that claimant’s injuries, but not to establish comparative negligence or fault. For child passengers, allows juries to consider seat belt non-usage evidence in support of a finding that the driver was negligent in contributing to the child’s injuries, but the evidence may not be considered in determining injury causation. The failure to use a seat belt is an affirmative defense, that the defendant must support with admissible opinion testimony. Finally, exceptions apply so that seat belt non-usage evidence will be excluded when an at-fault driver is determined to be intoxicated or fleeing law enforcement. The bill is applicable to claims arising from collisions that occur on or after July 6, 2021.

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