Evidence of Seat Belt Use Inadmissible in Auto/Truck Negligence Claims

Date: June 30, 2011

It is widely recognized that the use of seat belts saves lives and lessens the extent of injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents.  Because of the increased safety afforded by the use of seat belts, many states including Pennsylvania have enacted laws requiring occupants of autos and trucks to wear seat belts. 

Although seat belt use is required by law in Pennsylvania, it is considered a secondary offense.  As a secondary offense, a motorist can not be stopped by the police and cited simply for not wearing a seat belt.   Tne police can only stop a vehicle if there is a primary offense observed.  If the police stop a vehicle based on a primary offense (such as speeding) and the police also observe that the driver was  not wearing a seat belt, the driver could then be charged with both speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.

If a negligence claim is filed for personal injuries suffered as a result of a motor vehicle accident (auto or truck), the question of whether the injured party was wearing a seat belt is often raised.  The reason the question arises is because the defendant driver wants to argue that if the injured party had been wearing a seat belt, he may not have been injured or his injuries may not have been as serious.  Thus, seat belt use goes to the issue of an injured person’s contributory/comparative negligence.  However, evidence of seat belt use (or the lack thereof) is strictly prohibited by 75 Pa.C.S.A. 4581 (e) in court.

The attorneys at Dougherty, Leventhal & Price, L.L.P. represent auto and truck (tractor-trailer) accident injury victims throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.  DLP regularly represents clients injured due to the negligence of others in the following counties: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Wayne, Schuylkill, Wyoming, Montour, Lycoming, Sullivan, Monroe, Susquehanna, Bradford, Tioga and Columbia.  If you or anyone you know needs legal representation for serious injuries suffered in an automobile or tractor-trailer accident, call (or advise them to call) a lawyer at DLP as soon as possible after the accident for a free no-obligation consultation.

John Finnerty
Attorney Finnerty has been representing clients in Northeastern Pennsylvania as an Attorney with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP for over 25 years.