State Senator Dan Hegeman – Encouraging Seat Belt Safety

This week I am pleased to report the Senate passed Senate Bill 30 which I sponsored. This is a simple bill which allows a vehicle occupant’s failure to wear a safety belt to be allowed as evidence of the occupant’s own negligence in a lawsuit. In short, if someone fails to wear a seatbelt, and it contributes to the harm that person suffered, the jury is entitled to consider that in determining the money awarded to the person in a lawsuit.

Under current law, failure to wear a seat belt cannot be used as evidence of comparative negligence in product liability lawsuits against car manufacturers. This means that, during a court case involving a car crash, a jury is not allowed to evaluate whether injuries to the plaintiff were at least partially caused by the driver’s own negligence in choosing not to wear a seat belt. Failure to wear a seat belt may only be introduced as evidence to mitigate damages, by 1%, after negligence has already been determined.

Cars in the United States are built with seat belts for a reason — they keep us safe from some of the worst possible injuries in car crashes, such as those caused by being ejected from a vehicle. If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of an accident, this fact is pertinent to a jury’s consideration of whether you are at least partially responsible for the injuries you suffered.

The bill will now head to the House of Representative for their consideration, and I hope approval. This is just another step in the process of improving the legal climate in Missouri and restoring balance and fairness to our courts here in the State.

As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is dan.hegeman@senate.mo.gov and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.