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How Not Wearing a Seatbelt Can Affect Accident Lawsuits

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States for people under the age of 40. Over half of the people killed in crashes were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident. As in every state, Nevada law requires drivers and passengers in most motor vehicles to use seat belts. Children under the age of six who also weigh less than 60 pounds are required to be restrained in safety seats, ideally in the back seat. Failing to follow these rules can lead to devastating injuries in the event of an accident. Although Nevada law requires passengers and drivers to wear seat belts, it also limits how a failure to wear a seat belt can be used in a civil lawsuit. Under NRS 484D.495(4), a violation of the seatbelt requirements “may not be considered as negligence or as causation in any civil action or as negligent or reckless driving.” In practical terms, what does this mean?
  • Not wearing a seatbelt is not a form of contributory negligence. In a personal injury lawsuit the defendant may want to argue that the plaintiff contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries by committing an independent act of negligence. Contributory negligence typically involves some breach of a legal duty, like not using a hand-held cell phone while driving. NRS 484D.495(4) specifically prevents defendants from raising this argument in cases where a plaintiff has been injured in an accident in which the defendant was at fault but the plaintiff’s injuries were made worse by the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt.
  • Not wearing a seatbelt is not an intervening cause of injury. One of the hurdles for bringing a successful personal injury lawsuit is the requirement that the plaintiff prove that the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries. If the defendant can argue that the injuries were caused by something other than the defendant’s actions, the defendant can’t be held liable. For example, a plaintiff’s car might have suffered a major mechanical problem during the accident that was more to blame for the plaintiff’s specific injuries. But the fact that the plaintiff wasn’t wearing a seatbelt can’t be used in this way.
These rules offer a legal shield for people who were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of an accident in which they were injured. A defendant who was responsible for the accident cannot reduce or eliminate liability by using the mere fact that the plaintiff wasn’t wearing a seatbelt to raise two standard and powerful defenses. The short takeaway is that people who were not wearing seatbelts at the time of their accident should not be deterred from pursuing legal action. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area recover compensation in auto accident cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.