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State Court Addresses Constitutionality of Evidentiary Restrictions on Seat-Belt Use Evidence

In a dramatic shift from prior decisions, the Supreme Court of Arkansas recently released its opinion regarding the admissibility of seat-belt use evidence in civil lawsuits. The court found that the code that restricts the admissibility of a person’s failure to wear a seat belt violates the Arkansas Constitution.

street-296220_960_720The case arose from a 2011 car accident. Evidently, the petitioner/plaintiff was a passenger of a car driven by the defendant, who fell asleep at the wheel and caused an accident. The passenger brought a suit against the defendant, alleging damages for the injuries she suffered. The passenger also claimed that the driver was acting within the scope and course of his employment when the accident occurred, and she added the employer as a defendant as well. Both defendants filed answers that included the fact that the passenger was not wearing a seat belt as an affirmative defense. The plaintiff argued that the evidence should not be included because it violated a state statute that prevented such evidence. In turn, the defendants challenged the constitutionality of the state statute that restricts the admissibility of seat belt use or non-use in civil actions. Ultimately, the statute was held unconstitutional.

Applicability of the “Seat Belt” Defense in Florida

In the above case, the defendants attempted to use the seat belt defense in order to lessen the amount of damages for which they were liable. This defense has often been incorporated into various comparative fault systems. A number of states do not address the seat belt defense. However, Florida is one of the 15 states that allow a seat belt non-use defense.

It is thought that the reason that Florida allows evidence of seat belt non-use as a defense is because although the accident may have been caused due to another party’s behavior, the true injury may have been aggravated because the person injured was not wearing a seat belt. Some states use this as proof of the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate, whereas others, such as Florida, use it in the comparative negligence arena.

Unfortunately, since Florida allows this argument, it is important that plaintiffs understand that although they are bringing the claim, they must be prepared to provide a defense as well. Not only will plaintiffs have to argue against the defendants, but also they may have to contend with insurance companies.

A dedicated attorney can assist plaintiffs in developing sound and persuasive arguments against this defense. For example, an attorney can ensure that a proper investigation was conducted, or they may be able to argue that the accident would have resulted in severe injuries despite wearing a seat belt.

Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident in Florida?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a car accident in Florida, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The rules surrounding car accident liability in Florida can be extremely complicated. It is important that victims contact an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Cohn & Smith. The attorneys at Cohn & Smith have years of experience handling cases such as these, and they can help you seek the compensation that you deserve through zealous advocacy. Contact an attorney at Cohn & Smith today at 954-431-8100 to schedule your free initial consultation.

Related Blog Posts:

Florida Plaintiff’s Bad-Faith Claim against Insurance Company Upheld on Appeal, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, March 16, 2016.

Plaintiff’s Road-Rage Case Successful on Appeal, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, April 4, 2016.

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