The auto accident in June involving a tractor trailer truck driver for Walmart and a limousine carrying comedian Tracy Morgan is back in the news. According to an article in the Huffington Post, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is alleging that Tracy Morgan and the other passengers in the limousine caused their injuries, in whole or in part, by failing to wear seat belts. While an attorney for Morgan called Wal-Mart’s allegations “surprising and appalling,” it is common practice for a defendant to use comparative negligence as a defense.
Wearing Seat Belts Saves Lives and Reduces Injuries
According to the National Safety Council, wearing seat belts is the most effective way to prevent injury or death in an automobile accident. From 2004 through 2008, seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives. In addition, according to the NHTSA, wearing seat belts reduces the risk of moderate to critical injury by fifty percent.
Studies showing the effectiveness of seat belts in saving lives has spurred most states to enact some form of seat belt laws. Thirty-three states have primary seat belt laws that allow law enforcement officers to stop and ticket drivers and passengers for not wearing seat belts. Sixteen other states have passed secondary seat belt laws. These laws permit law enforcement officers to issue seat belt tickets, but only when the car has been stopped for another traffic offense.
California has a primary seat belt law. Anyone sixteen and older must wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a vehicle. Children under sixteen must be either in an appropriate car or booster seat, or wearing a seatbelt. Failure to do so will result in a fine.
Seat Belt Laws and Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence means that all parties involved in an auto accident are assigned their appropriate percentage of the blame for the accident. The plaintiff, in this case Tracy Morgan, will then have his compensation reduced by whatever percentage the jury finds he was to blame for the injuries he incurred by not wearing a seat belt. For example, if the jury finds that Tracy Morgan was 20% to blame for his injuries because he was not wearing a seat belt, he will only receive 80% of the damages he incurred.
California uses the theory of comparative negligence when determining fault in automobile accidents. Failing to wear a seat belt in California can significantly impact the amount an injured accident victim can recover in damages. Failing to follow any traffic law is viewed as at least being partially at fault by a jury. To receive full compensation in an auto accident it is imperative that the driver, and all passengers, wear a seat belt and obey the traffic laws.
Call an Experienced Long Beach Automobile Accident Attorney for More Information
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