The “Seat Belt Defense” in Automobile Accident Claims

2021 Spring Semester Scholarship Award

Funded by the Auto Accident Lawyers of Ward & Ward Personal Injury Lawyers


*Note – The Seat Belt Defense Scholarship Award has been closed and submissions are no longer being accepted. Check back soon for new scholarship information.


Indiana is one of several states where the defendant of an automobile accident claim is prohibited by law from reducing or eliminating their liability by using the “Seat Belt Defense.” Evidence that the plaintiff driver and or passengers were not wearing a seatbelt restraint when the accident occurred is not allowed to be admitted into evidence. To date, both the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court have upheld the state’s legislation.

Indiana Legislation

  • Occupants of a motor vehicle, 16 years or older, must be properly restrained in a seat belt. [some exceptions apply]. Passenger Restraint Systems IC 9-19-10-2
  • Evidence of failure to use seatbelts or child restraint systems cannot constitute “fault” in a motor vehicle accident and may not be used as evidence of the plaintiff’s failure to avoid additional injury or loss under the doctrine of Mitigation of Damages. Failure to Comply IC 9-19-10-7
  • Plaintiff’s compensation for damages sustained in the automobile accident may be reduced by the injured party’s percentage of fault. A plaintiff whose fault exceeds that of the defendant(s) and nonparties combined, is barred from recovery for injuries and other damages sustained as a result of the automobile accident. Contributory Fault and Compensation IC 34-51-2-5,6

Legal Theory

Causation is a required element for a legal claim of negligence. ‘But for the Defendant’s act of negligence, the Plaintiff would not have suffered harm.’ 


Plaintiff – The party injured in a car accident claim.

Defendant – The negligent party against whom compensation is sought.

Fault – An improper act or omission, injurious to another, transpiring through negligence, rashness, or ignorance.

Damages – Money paid by defendants to injured accident victim(s) in civil cases to compensate the plaintiffs for their injuries and other losses.

Mitigation of Damages – The injured plaintiff has a duty to take reasonable action, where possible, to minimize or avoid additional injury or loss. Failure to do so may reduce plaintiff’s compensation. 


Answer the following question in 750 words or less:

Do you believe the law should be changed to allow a defense attorney to use the Seat Belt Defense against the plaintiff(s) to lessen or eliminate the defendant’s liability in a car accident claim for negligence? Describe why you came to that conclusion and include a fictitious example of an accident scenario that supports your point of view.

Eligibility Criteria

  • This scholarship is open to any student who is currently enrolled in an accredited undergraduate, graduate, or professional program in the United States. This includes accredited community college students as well as high school seniors and students who possess a GED who have been accepted to or are enrolled in an accredited program.
  • All eligible candidates must be in good academic standing with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.00 or above.
  • Previous winners of a scholarship award funded by Ward & Ward Personal Injury Lawyers, are not eligible for this award.


Award Announcement: 

February 2021

Scholarship Amount:


Submission Deadline:

January 15, 2021


Application Instructions

Email the following documents to

  • Completed, signed, and dated Scholarship Gift/Award Application [Download Here]
  • Updated resume
  • Current unofficial transcript
  • 750-word essay


This scholarship award is funded by the Indianapolis, IN auto accident lawyers of Ward & Ward Personal Injury Lawyers
located at 728 S. Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN  46225

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