Indiana Passes New Seat Belt Law in Personal Injury Cases

Rachel N. Woloshin

Author: Rachel N. Woloshin

POST DATE: 6.24.24
Ccha  Personal Injury

If you were hurt in a car accident, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit against the liable party to recover damages. However, Indiana recently passed a law that may reduce the compensation plaintiffs can recover. In short, it allows the defendant to admit evidence of failure to wear a seat belt, if the plaintiff is 15 years or older and if the defendant can prove your injuries would've been less severe had you been wearing it. If so, the defendant can ask the jury to reduce plaintiff's award of damages.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate this new law. Church Church Hittle and Antrim (CCHA Law) has over 140 years of experience and knows how to get results for clients. Contact our firm today to discuss your personal injury accident and see how we can help you.

What Is Indiana’s New Seat Belt Law?

In the past, Indiana law barred the admissibility of evidence of seat belt misuse or non-use during a personal injury trial. A jury could not consider it when deciding a case and calculating a damage award.

However, this changed in March 2024 when Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed House Bill 1090. This new law will go into effect on July 1, 2024. Now, a defendant may be able to introduce evidence of seat belt non-use in court. This means that if you weren’t wearing a seat belt when the accident happened, the other side may try to use this to reduce the amount they have to pay you.

That said, it’s important to understand that this new law doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get less compensation if you weren’t wearing a seat belt. Some specific rules and conditions apply. For example, the law only applies to people 15 years or older at the time of the accident, and the other side must prove that not wearing a seat belt directly contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Fasten seat belts safety

How It Can Affect Personal Injury Cases

Indiana’s new seat belt law can impact the outcome of your personal injury case if you weren’t wearing a seat belt during a car accident. If the opposing party can prove you weren’t buckled up and that your injuries would have been less severe had you been wearing one, they may argue that your failure to wear a seat belt contributed to your damages. This could lead to:

  • Reduced compensation—your financial recovery may be reduced if the court finds that not wearing a seat belt worsened your injuries;

  • Increased complexity—defending against these claims requires legal expertise, familiarity with the new law, and knowledge of how the old and new laws intersect;

  • Settlement negotiations—more complicated settlement negotiations as the insurer attempts to leverage the seat belt issue and reduce their liability; and

  • Lengthy litigation—seat belt issues could prolong your case and delay your potential recovery.

Considering these factors, it’s crucial to have a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney on your side. The team at CCHA Law can help anticipate these challenges and advocate for your best interests throughout the legal process.

Can I Be Liable for Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

Indiana’s new seat belt law shouldn’t raise concerns under the Indiana comparative fault system. The comparative fault system seeks to establish what percentage of the fault lies with either party. After fault is assessed, the plaintiff’s compensation may be reduced by their percentage of fault. The new seat belt law does not mention fault allocation or change Indiana’s established comparative fault principles. So, even if you weren’t wearing a seat belt at the time of an accident, that alone won’t necessarily make you liable for the crash under Indiana comparative fault laws.

Rather, the new law says evidence of seat belt non-use can be used to prove the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages. In other words, the other side could use your failure to wear a seat belt as proof that you did not do what you could to lessen your own damages. You can still get compensated, but failure to mitigate damages often translates to reduced compensation.

Seat belt injury

How CCHA Law Can Help

We understand that navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming, especially with the recent changes to Indiana’s seat belt law. CCHA Law is committed to providing compassionate and expert legal representation to help you recover the compensation you deserve. Here’s how we can assist you:

  • Thorough investigation—we’ll meticulously investigate your accident, gather evidence, and interview witnesses to build a strong case on your behalf;

  • Detailed analysis—we’ll analyze the details of your case, including any potential impact of the new seat belt law, and advise you on the best course of action;

  • Skilled negotiation—we’ll negotiate with insurance companies and opposing parties to secure a fair settlement that covers your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering; and

  • Aggressive litigation—if necessary, we’ll take your case to court and fight tirelessly to protect your rights and maximize your recovery.

While evidence of seat belt non-use can complicate a case, it doesn’t necessarily bar you from receiving compensation. Contact CCHA Law today and let us help you on the road to recovery.

Schedule a Free Consultation

Don’t let Indiana’s new seat belt law prevent you from taking action against a liable driver. With over 140 years of combined experience, CCHA Law has secured countless successful outcomes for our clients. We’re ready to put our expertise and dedication to work for you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and discover how we can fight for the compensation you deserve. CCHA Law serves personal injury clients across the state of Indiana, including Indianapolis, Noblesville, Fishers, Westfield, Carmel, Tipton, Zionsville, Whitestown, Lebanon, and beyond.