Can a Defendant in a Massachusetts Car Accident Use Evidence of the Victim’s Failure to Wear a Seat Belt?

The question often arises whether an accident victim who was not wearing their seat belt can still recover for their injuries through a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit. The short answer is yes; however, seat belt non-use evidence may be admissible in certain situations. However, the fact that an accident victim was not wearing a seat belt will not prohibit them from bringing a case or recovering for their injuries.

When someone is injured in a Massachusetts car accident, they are entitled to bring a personal injury case against the parties they believe to be at fault for their injuries. To prove a case against another driver, an accident victim must show that the other driver was negligent, and that their negligence resulted in the accident victim’s injuries. However, even if an accident victim can meet each of these elements, they may still encounter issues.

When it comes to determining a defendant’s liability in a car accident, Massachusetts car accident law allows for juries to assess the accident victim’s role in bringing about their own injuries. This is referred to as their “comparative fault.” Typically, an accident victim will have their total damages award reduced by their percentage of responsibility. For example, if a motorist incurs $300,000 in damages but is found to be 10 percent at fault, the most they could recover from other motorists involved in the accident would be $270,000. Under this rule, even an accident victim who is partially at fault for the collision can recover for their injuries, provided they are not more than 51 percent at fault.

An accident victim’s decision not to wear their seat belt is not automatically admissible to show the accident victim’s comparative fault. However, Massachusetts courts have held that seat belt non-use evidence may be admissible, provided the defendant prove “that the plaintiff’s failure to wear her seat belt was causally related to her injuries.” Thus, the defendant must present proof that the accident victim’s failure to use a seat belt in some way worsened their injuries. The practical effect of this rule is that, in most cases, the fact that an accident victim was not wearing a seat belt will not be admissible as evidence, and the jury will not be able to consider it. Of course, there are situations where seat belt non-use evidence may play a role, such as in cases where a motorist was ejected from the vehicle, and their injuries occurred as a result of the ejection. However, the burden is on the defendant to present evidence that, had the victim been wearing a seat belt, their injuries would have been lessened.

Have You Been Injured in a Massachusetts Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Massachusetts car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., we help accident victims pursue claims for compensation against those who are responsible for their injuries. We have extensive experience handling Boston car accidents, as well as truck wrecks, motorcycle crashes, and other motor vehicle accidents. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 800-262-9200 to schedule a free consultation today.