Every year, thousands of people are killed or injured in motor vehicle accidents in the United States. The number of fatalities and wrongful death claims has decreased steadily over time, mainly due to the improvement of safety features in vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about half the people killed in motor vehicle crashes each year were not wearing safety restraints. It is possible that many of these people’s deaths could have been prevented with the use of seat belts. In 2017, 37,133 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. and of that number, an estimated 14,955 lives could have been saved by wearing seat belts.
Seat Belt Safety Laws in Texas
Texas, like other states, has occupant restraint laws in place to protect vehicle drivers and passengers. All occupants of a vehicle aged 15 and over must wear a seat belt when one is provided. Children under the age of 17 must be secured by either a seat belt or a child passenger safety seat system. There are several exceptions to the law. Those who have a medical reason can be exempt from wearing a seat belt if they have a statement from their physician. A person who is performing a job that requires frequent entry and exit to the vehicle may be exempt. These jobs include U.S. postal service workers, newspaper delivery personnel, meter readers, and others.
Penalties for Not Wearing a Seat Belt
Seat belt use saves lives. While seat belt laws have been in place for many years, police have not always given citations. With an increased emphasis on seat belt safety, law enforcement officers may now stop drivers simply for the failure to wear seat belts.
The driver is responsible for ensuring that all passengers wear their safety restraints. It is particularly important for adults to properly restrain infants and children with an adequate safety seat or booster. The failure to comply with the seat belt law is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable with fines of up to $200. Parents may also be reported to the Texas Child Protective Services for failure to restrain their children while driving.
Preventing Injuries with Seat Belts
Seat belts are necessary for the prevention of serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes. Vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for people under the age of 34. One of the most severe injuries possible is a traumatic brain injury, which can occur when the head hits the windshield. Wearing a seat belt will prevent your body from being ejected from the vehicle in an accident.
A person wearing a seat belt is more likely to survive a rollover accident; a person who is not properly restrained will suffer severe injuries or worse. It is essential to make sure that the seat belts work correctly and that you install a child safety seat properly.
How Seatbelt Use Impacts a Personal Injury Case?
In Texas, the nonuse of a seatbelt can be admissible in court to demonstrate partial responsibility for injuries suffered in a car accident. Juries in Texas are required to apportion fault in accidents. If you are found to have been partly responsible for an accident, your damages will be reduced according to the percentage of responsibility assigned. If your percentage of responsibility is over 51% you are precluded from damages in Texas.
However, to show fault, the nonuse would have to relate to your injury.
How Seat Belt Use Can Be Proven?
Newer vehicles all have ‘black boxes” which are really computers that record such things are speed, braking, steering input, and seat belts. Often, the event data recorder will be downloaded and an expert called to testify about the data if it is helpful to that side of the case.
Also, witnesses can be used to testify what they saw. For instance, f someone helped a victim out of the car, they could testify if they saw the seat belt in use.
Free Consultation on Injury Claims
If you or a loved one were hurt in an auto accident due to someone’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. The negligent driver may owe you money for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Contact Baumgartner Law Firm today for a free case consultation. Call (281) 587-1111.