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Georgia Bill to Allow Seatbelt Use Evidence in Accident Trial

There’s a string of seatbelt laws all relating to the impact of seatbelts on car accident -related injuries pending in the legislature, and each one of them is at varying stages of approval. One such bill is currently in the Senate, and it could have potential implications for an accident victim’s right to recover damages after a car accident.

According to bill SB23, if the victim of an accident was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, then the defendant’s lawyer would be able to bring up this fact during trial. Currently, Georgia law does not allow a victim’s failure to buckle up to be mentioned during trial proceedings. Jurors are not allowed to consider if failure to wear seatbelts could have contributed to the severity of the injuries. If the bill becomes law, then that fact can be used as evidence that the plaintiff or the victim contributed to the severity of his injuries by not buckling up. Obviously, this would have an impact on any damages that the plaintiff would be eligible for as the result of the accident. Georgia personal injury lawyers are expectedly displeased about the bill, and the repercussions it would have on a victim’s right to compensation after an accident. The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association has opposed the bill because it allows the jury to develop a negative perspective of the victim. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has voiced its approval of bill.

A civil trial is all about compensating a victim for another person’s negligence. A victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt cannot be used as an excuse to forgive or lesson the severity of the defendant’s negligent driving behavior. The bill amounts to letting a defendant get away with a possible rap on the wrist, if the victim has failed to wear a seatbelt. If the bill passes, we risk making a civil trial all about the inadequacies of the injured plaintiff, and not the negligence of the defendant.That defeats the purpose of civil justice.

Seatbelts save lives – I think we all agree on that.Enforcing the use of seatbelts and making them mandatory for all vehicles has been something that we as Georgia car accident lawyers have stood up for. But to allow a seatbelt violation to be used to practically gift a negligent motorist a free pass, is something that we should strongly oppose.