If you are in a car crash and you are not wearing a seatbelt you can still sue for damages that you incurred. However, if you have a trial the fact you are not wearing a seatbelt may be used against you.
Just recently in Nabors Well Services, Ltd. v. Romero, the Supreme Court of Texas overruled its long held stance that the use of seat belt evidence was not admissible in court. Before this case came out a couple months ago, it didn’t matter if the plaintiff wore a seat belt or not if the defendant was responsible for the accident.
But this case changed all of that. This means that if you didn’t wear a seat belt before this ruling, you now have one more reason to wear a seatbelt from now on.
But Why Was That Not Already The Law?
Texas didn’t always follow the law of “proportionate responsibility”, which allows for the injured party to share in the blame for their injuries. For the longest time, the Supreme Court ruling in Carnation v. Wong, 516 S.W.2d 116 (Tex.1974) was the law of the land on seat belt evidence.
In that case the Supreme Court of Texas held that evidence of seat-belt use or non-use was not admissible in court to reduce the defendant’s responsibility for the injured person’s injuries. This was a win for Plaintiffs and Plaintiff’s lawyers. The court basically made a public policy statement that said “if the defendant caused the accident, then the defendant pays.”
In 1985, the state legislature decided to jump into the arena and made a statutory rule that seat-belt evidence was not admissible in civil cases for any reason. Nabors Well Services, Ltd. v. Romero, 456 S.W.3d at 555 (Tex. 2015).
In 2003, the legislature repealed that law banning evidence of seat belt usage. Id. But the ruling in Carnation still was in effect, so the use of seat belt evidence was still banned. Id.