A Texas court of appeals rejected an 18 wheeler company’s argument that the victims of an accident caused by one of its employees should not be able to recover damages because they were wearing their seatbelt. The Texas Supreme Court has just decided to hear the appeal, so we will have to see whether this decision affects Texas personal injury plaintiffs, regardless of whether the accident was caused by a semi-truck driver or any other driver.
In Nabors Wells Services, Ltd. V. Romero, a Texas court of appeals had to decide whether the lower court was correct in refusing to admit evidence that truck accident victims may not have been wearing their seatbelt. A truck being driven by an employee of Nabors was passing a Chevy Suburban filled with people when it clipped the side of the SUV. The SUV spun out of control and crashed, injuring all inside and killing one of the occupants.
At trial the semi-truck company argued that the plaintiffs should not be able to recover because their own negligence was in part responsible for the crash. In support of this claim, the trucking company tried to introduce evidence that several of the occupants were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the accident.
The trial court refused to let the evidence in. The jury then found that Nabors was 51% responsible for causing the accident. Nabors appealed, arguing that it was an error to not allow the non-seatbelt use evidence.
The Court of Appeals Decision
The court of appeals agreed with the trial court and upheld the jury’s verdict. The court noted that, even though there is a statute requiring all motorists wear their seatbelts, this does not create a duty owed to those who may cause an accident. In fact, specifically in the statute requiring that seatbelts be worn, the law explains that there is a difference between negligence that contributes to the accident and negligence that may make damages worse once the accident occurs. However, ultimately, the court determined that the evidence suggesting the passengers were not wearing their seat belts was not relevant to either the liability or the damages phase of the trial.
In sum, the seat belt defense was not a viable defense for those who cause accidents on Texas roads. Of course it is always advised to wear your seatbelt when in any motor vehicle.
Have You Been Injured in a Texas Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Texas truck accident, contact the Law Offices of William Berenson to discuss the facts of your case. Attorney Bill Berenson is a veteran Fort Worth personal injury attorney and knows what it takes to recover for his clients. He is a Board Certified Specialist in Personal Injury Trial Law and has over 33 years of experience in Texas civil courts. To find out more about the laws in Texas that allow truck accident victims to recover, contact the firm by clicking here, or call 817-885-8000.
Fort Worth Accident Between Three Trucks and Car Hurts Three, March 28, 2014.
Fort Worth Four Vehicle Crash Caused By Fed Ex Truck, March 26, 2014.