Tracy Morgan crash raises issue of seat belt use in personal injury cases, P.2
In our last couple posts, we’ve been speaking about the Tracy Morgan
truck accident and how failure to wear a seat belt may or may not affect
a crash victim’s recovery in personal injury litigation. As we’ve
noted, Missouri law does not allow courts to admit evidence of failure
to wear a seat belt for purposes of demonstrating comparative negligence,
but it does allow such evidence for the mitigation of damages.
Mitigation of damages refers to a plaintiff’s obligation to minimize the effects of an
accident. In Missouri, courts may only admit evidence of failure to wear
a seat belt for mitigation if it can be shown that that not wearing a
seatbelt contributed to his or her injuries.
Arguably, failure to wear a seat belt could be liberally construed as making
a significant contribution to injuries in many types of accidents, if
not most. Plaintiffs who failed to wear a seatbelt should always work
with an experienced attorney to carefully scrutinize the extent to which
lack of safety restraint actually contributed to injuries. In some accidents,
failure to wear a seat belt has less of an effect on injuries than in
other cases, and this point should be highlighted where appropriate.
Another important point to make about mitigation of damages in these cases
is that if it can be shown that failure to wear a seat belt contributed
to injuries, the plaintiff’s reduction in damages may not be greater
than one percent of the damages awarded after any reduction for comparative
negligence. In our next post, we’ll pick back up on this point and
wrap up this discussion.