Tracy Morgan crash raises issue of seat belt use in personal injury cases

In out last post, we began speaking about the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board regarding a crash in which actor-comedian Tracy Morgan was involved last summer in New Jersey. As we noted, one of the findings was that the truck driver who caused the accident was definitely fatigued, as initial reports pointed out.

Another interesting point made in the findings is that most of the passengers, who were struck in the accident, including Tracy Morgan, were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, despite the fact that New Jersey law required them to do so. Based on that finding, the board urged the National Limousine Association to recommend that limo drivers advise all their passengers about the importance of wearing safety belts.

Here in Missouri, seat belts are also required for all occupants of passenger vehicles, which are motor vehicles designed to carry up to ten people and used for transporting persons. Obviously, it is in the interest of passengers to wear a seat belt, but what happens when a plaintiff who was not wearing a seat belt at the time of a crash pursues damages?

In terms of determining how to apportion liability, failure to wear a seat belt at the time of an accident makes no difference in Missouri since evidence of not wearing a seat belt cannot be admitted for determining comparative negligence. Such evidence can be admitted for the mitigation of damages, though, an issue we’ll discuss in our next post.



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