Many multiple-vehicle car accidents in St. Joseph and the rest of Missouri are not the fault of a single driver. Instead, both drivers share some fault for the resulting injuries. We have covered Missouri’s shared fault rules and comparative negligence in the past in our blog, but what happens when the victim in a crash is hurt because he or she was not wearing a seatbelt?
Missouri has a statute that changes the rules for these situations.
How Does Comparative Negligence Work in Missouri?
Missouri is one of the many states in the U.S. that has adopted comparative negligence to apportion liability when the victim is partially to blame for their injuries. This can happen when, for example, a driver on a highway negligently merges into the passing lane and hits another driver who was speeding.
Because they were both doing something wrong, who caused the crash?
In Missouri, that question is one for the jury in a personal injury case. They have to weigh, or compare, the fault of the person filing the lawsuit against the fault of the defendant being sued. They then assign a percentage of fault to each party. Any compensation that the victim is awarded gets reduced by his or her share of fault for the crash.
So, if the driver who negligently merged into the passing lane to hit the speeding car is deemed to be 55 percent at-fault, but has suffered $100,000 in damages, he would only recover $45,000 in Missouri.
What About Not Wearing a Seatbelt?
But now imagine a car accident where the victim negligently merges into the passing lane, hits a speeding car and goes into a rollover accident. The victim was not wearing a seatbelt, gets thrown from the vehicle, and suffers injuries far more severe than if he or she was wearing a restraint.
It sure seems like Missouri’s comparative negligence rules would apply.
But Missouri Statute 307.178(4) steps in, instead.
This law effectively eliminates seatbelt wearing from the comparative fault calculation. It requires the victim to introduce expert testimony into the case to show that the victim’s lack of a restraint made their injuries worse. Even then, the victim’s recovery can only be reduced by 1 percent.
However, business-friendly lobbyists have managed to carve an exception into this rule, as well.
In 2019, they pushed Senate Bill 30 through the Missouri Legislature. This bill allows car companies that are being sued for products liability to use the victim’s lack of a seat belt as evidence of comparative negligence. If a car or a car part was defective and it caused a crash, the company that made it can point to the victim’s lack of a seat belt to undercut their claims.
St. Joseph Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The car accident and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office serve accident victims in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.