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Home > Blog > Auto Accidents > Indiana Law Update: Seatbelt Use as Evidence in Vehicle Accident Lawsuits

Indiana Law Update: Seatbelt Use as Evidence in Vehicle Accident Lawsuits

By: Kopka Pinkus Dolin

Effective July 1, 2024, Indiana House Bill 1090 and the amended Indiana Code 9-19-11-8.5 allows for presentation of evidence of a plaintiff not wearing a seatbelt to be considered as proof of a plaintiff’s “failure to mitigate damages.” Evidence of seatbelt use will still not be considered admissible for the purpose of determining fault.

This change only applies to plaintiffs who were at least fifteen years of age or older at the time of the accident and who were operating a motor vehicle that was manufactured after September 1, 1986 and equipped with at least one inflatable restrained system. This subsection also applies to causes of action accruing after June 30, 2024.

What does this mean for our clients?

After July 1, 2024, in any lawsuit filed by a Plaintiff seeking damages for injuries from a motor vehicle collision, the Defendant may now be able to introduce evidence of whether Plaintiff was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision to try to reduce the damages alleged by the Plaintiff. In practice, this means that the jury may be permitted to hear evidence that will allow them to find that the Plaintiff failed to use reasonable care to minimize his or her damages from the collision and that the Plaintiff’s failure to mitigate the damages did not occur as a result of the defendant’s alleged negligence.

This legislative update is a significant victory for the defense, which was previously prohibited from introducing any evidence regarding seat belt usage at trial. As current estimates place Indiana drivers’ seat belt compliance at approximately 93%, such testimony may go a long way to showing a jury that the Plaintiff’s actions (or inactions) were not reasonable under the circumstances, resulting in a higher comparative fault finding against the Plaintiff, which may in turn, further reduce, or completely bar, the Plaintiff’s recovery at trial.

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