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Seatbelt Use as a Factor in PA Car Crashes

2014-07-14 Auto Accidents

One of the many things that injured people begin to worry about once they decide to pursue a car accident claim is whether any of their own conduct could have contributed to their injuries. One frequent example is the case where a passenger is thrown from a vehicle or strikes his or her head because of seatbelt nonuse at the time of the accident. The so-called “seatbelt defense” was a favorite of insurance companies in numerous jurisdictions for many years.

Although Pennsylvania law does make seatbelt use mandatory, it also specifically prohibits the introduction of evidence of nonuse at trial. While this law has long been a thorn in the side of insurance companies and other defendants, it provides several distinct benefits to injured plaintiffs:

  • Failure to use a seatbelt cannot be considered contributory negligence and therefore cannot be used to reduce a plaintiff’s overall recovery.
  • Seatbelt nonuse cannot be used as a defense even if it appears that the plaintiff would not have been injured had he or she been wearing a seatbelt.
  • Defendants cannot offer evidence to rebut a plaintiff’s testimony that he or she was wearing a seatbelt.

Pennsylvania’s courts have repeatedly taken the position that this seatbelt law should be strictly construed, turning back numerous attempts defendants made over the years to introduce seatbelt nonuse evidence through roundabout means. While courts have sometimes questioned the wisdom of the statute, they have yet to make any move to limit it.

Seatbelt use is the law in Pennsylvania and every driver and passenger should use one for safety’s sake. However, if you or a loved one was injured in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt, it is not fatal to your case. An experienced Lancaster County car accident attorney can help you take the steps necessary to get the compensation you deserve.


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