Although the Texas Supreme Court had previously held that seat belt non-use could not be considered in a civil case, it more recently decided such evidence can be considered for a limited purpose. It explained the new change in the following case.
The Facts of the Case
After a crash between a tractor-trailer and a pickup truck, the driver and passengers of the pickup truck sued the tractor-trailer’s driver and his employer. At the time of the crash, the pickup truck driver was trying to pass the tractor-trailer, and the tractor-trailer crashed into him as it began to turn left.
The case went to trial and the jury found that the tractor-trailer driver was 50% at fault, the employer was 10% at fault, and the pickup truck driver was 40% at fault. At the time of the crash, the pickup truck driver and his two passengers were not wearing seat belts. The jury found that because the plaintiffs were not wearing seat belts, they caused or contributed to their own injuries, and found that each of the plaintiffs was 100% responsible for their own injuries.
The jury awarded the plaintiffs around $450,000 in damages, but the court did not award them any money in the judgment based on the jury’s conclusion that they were 100% responsible for their injuries. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing in part that the court should not have allowed evidence on the plaintiffs’ non-use of seat belts.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Texas considered whether the court should have allowed evidence on the plaintiffs’ non-use of seat belts.
The Court’s Decision
The Texas Supreme Court had previously held that a person whose negligence did not contribute to a car crash should not have the person’s damages reduced because of the person’s non-use of seat belts. However, the court more recently decided that relevant evidence of use or non-use of seat belts can be admissible to apportion responsibility in civil lawsuits. The court based that decision off of the Texas Legislature’s repeal of a ban on all seat-belt evidence. In addition, the court determined that a jury must consider relevant evidence of the plaintiff’s conduct prior to the injury which caused or contributed to the injury. The court decided that evidence of the plaintiffs’ failure to wear their seat belts could be admitted to apportion responsibility between the parties.
Contact a Texas Personal Injury Attorney
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