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Evidence of an Accident Victim’s Failure to Wear a Seatbelt Is Prohibited in Georgia Personal Injury Trials

Under Georgia law, motorists are required to wear approved seatbelts when driving and while riding as a passenger in a car or truck, and for a good reason. Studies have repeatedly shown that seatbelt use can reduce both the frequency and severity of injuries sustained in Georgia car accidents.

As a general rule, when a plaintiff’s negligence contributes to the accident resulting in their injuries evidence of the plaintiff’s negligence is admissible. This evidence may be used to defeat a plaintiff’s claim against a defendant or to reduce the total amount of damages owed to the plaintiff by the defendant. A common question when it comes to seatbelt use is whether a motorist’s failure to use a seatbelt can be used against them in a claim for damages against another driver that caused an accident.

States are split on this issue. Some states allow seatbelt non-use evidence to be used as substantive evidence of a plaintiff’s negligence in the liability phase of a trial. In these states, jurors are able to apportion fault to the plaintiff based on the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt. Other states do not allow this evidence to be considered in the liability phase of a trial, but allow jurors to consider seatbelt nonuse evidence when calculating damages. This has the effect of reducing a plaintiff’s damages award for the “preventable” injuries that could have been avoided had the plaintiff been wearing a seatbelt.

In Georgia, however, a plaintiff’s failure to use a seatbelt cannot be used in either manner. In fact, seatbelt nonuse evidence is generally prohibited. Under Georgia Code § 40-8-76.1, “[t]he failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seat safety belt … shall not be considered evidence of negligence or causation, shall not otherwise be considered by the finder of fact on any question of liability … and shall not be evidence used to diminish any recovery for damages.” The statute also prohibits insurance companies from denying an accident victim’s claim based on their failure to wear a seatbelt.

In a similar vein, Georgia Code § 40-6-296 provides the same prohibition on evidence of helmet nonuse in Georgia bicycle accident cases. Thus, whether a motorist was wearing a seatbelt or a bicyclist was wearing a helmet is not relevant in Georgia personal injury cases.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Georgia personal injury lawyers at McAleer Law have decades of experience handling a wide range of claims, including those arising from Georgia car accidents. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

See More Posts:

Court Upholds Athlete’s Award for Future Earnings in Recent Georgia Car Accident Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, September 20, 2018.

Court Considers Whether Roadway Contractors Are Liable for Georgia Car Crash, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, October 1, 2018.