In the state of Indiana, a safety restraint system is mandatory under the law. Failure to follow this law is a Class D Infraction. Indiana Code 9-19-10-2 states:
Each occupant of a motor vehicle equipped with a safety belt that:
(1) meets the standards stated in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 208 (49 CFR 571.208); and
(2) is standard equipment installed by the manufacturer;
shall have a safety belt properly fastened about the occupant’s body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion.
Use of the Seat Belt Defense by the Defendant
However, Indiana legislation, in specificity Indiana Code (IC 9-19-10-7), has made it clear that the injured party’s failure to comply with IC-19-10-2 does not constitute fault and that the defendant to a claim for injuries may not use the injured party’s failure to comply to limit the defendant’s liability.
The Failure to Comply and Mitigation of Damages
I always inform my clients that Indiana jurisprudence follows the doctrine of Mitigation of Damages. What does that mean to the person who was injured in an automobile collision due to another person’s negligence?
A person who wishes to pursue a claim for their bodily injuries and other damages must do everything possible to mitigate or lessen the severity of their injuries. In other words, a person who has been hurt in an automobile collision and seeking compensation for their damages must obtain medical treatment either immediately following the accident responsible for their injuries, or very soon thereafter. They should follow the advice, orders, and referrals of their physician, including, but not limited to radiological testing, medications, rest, and physical therapy, in order to lessen or ease any bodily harm. The patient’s failure to do so may reduce any compensation he or she may receive in a claim for damages.
However, as it relates to the injured party’s failure to comply with the seat belt law, subsection (c) of IC 9-19-10-7, states that the defendant’s evidence of the failure to comply [also known as the Seat Belt Defense]… may not be admitted in a civil action to mitigate damages.
Seek the Expertise of an Experienced Automobile Collision Lawyer
The question as to the admissibility of the “Seat Belt Defense” used by defendant insurance companies to reduce or deny liability on behalf of their clients, has been tested and ruled upon in the higher courts of Indiana but to date, without success. You may, however, be assured there will be further attempts made by representatives for the insurance industry to use the seat belt defense in future tort claims.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you were not wearing a seat belt when your injuries were sustained, I recommend you seek the help and experience of a seasoned Indiana automobile collision lawyer; someone who limits their practice to the advocacy of clients with bodily injuries and is fully knowledgeable and up-to-date with legislation and judicial opinions that may affect the value of your claim. Call personal injury attorney, Charlie Ward, of Ward & Ward Law Firm today at (317) 639-9501 for a free consultation and unbeatable experience in dealing with car accident claims.