One of the things I have learned in the course of practicing law over the last decade and a half is that everything is fluid. What was ironclad law yesterday becomes a distant memory with a stroke of a pen by a Judge.
Personal injury law is no exception. For years, all experienced car accident attorneys have relied on the “seatbelt rule”. Simply put, when dealing with a car accident case, the fact that a plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt was not admissible. The jury didn’t hear it. It wasn’t relevant. After all, the fact that the injured party may not have been wearing a seatbelt didn’t in any way cause the accident, right? It didn’t lead to the negligence of the other driver, did it? Therefore, it shouldn’t excuse the bad conduct of the other driver, should it?
After being well-settled law in Texas for over 40 years, the Texas Supreme Court decided earlier this year that the “seatbelt rule” was wrong. According to the Court in Nabors Well Services v. Romero, “Relevant evidence of use or nonuse of seat belts is admissible for the purpose of apportioning responsibility in civil lawsuits.”
In other words, not wearing that seatbelt can now affect your pocketbook and your ability to recover for the injuries you suffer due to the bad conduct of another driver.
So for all my prospective clients out there: BUCKLE UP. You will be safer, have a stronger potential case, and make your attorney’s life just a little easier!