The seat belt gag law in Louisiana was passed in the late 1980s to prevent a jury from knowing whether an injured victim in an auto accident was wearing a seat belt or not. The theory behind this statute is that an injured victim shouldn’t be penalized when they sustain injuries through no fault of their own.
What Should You Know About The Seat Belt Gag Law In Louisiana?
Revised Statute §32:295.1 in Louisiana requires that all drivers wear a seat belt when operating motor vehicles. Section E of that statute, related to the seat belt gag law, says that failure to wear a seat belt will not be considered as evidence of negligence in any action to recover financial damages from the at-fault driver or insurance company. The statute prevents a jury from knowing whether a person hurt in a car accident was wearing a seat belt.
This law generally means that if you’re injured in a car accident and you are not wearing a seat belt, you will not be held responsible or partially at-fault for your own injuries just because you didn’t have a seat belt on.
What is The Seat Belt Defense in Louisiana?
Louisiana has a mandatory seat belt law that requires all occupants in a vehicle to wear a safety belt when the vehicle is in motion. If you violate this law, it can result in a ticket and fine. The law also exempts a defendant from using evidence of ‘failure to wear a seat belt’ as a defense in a car accident case, known as the “seat belt defense”. The law says in part “a safety belt in violation of this Section shall not be considered evidence of comparative negligence.”
This means that another driver can’t claim that you are not entitled to receive maximum compensation for your injuries because you were not wearing your seat belt at the time of the car accident. This does not mean that insurance adjusters won’t try to use this argument with you to lower the amount of money you get paid for your injury claim. An insurance adjuster is not going to tell you that the law prohibits this type of defense, their goal is to pay you as little as possible. You need an experienced attorney on your side who knows the law in Louisiana and who will fight for your right to maximum compensation.
Call the Cueria Law Firm today for a free consultation with New Orleans Injury Attorney Brent Cueria. We will walk you through the process and help you understand everything along the way. Don’t fight the insurance companies without Cueria Law Firm on your side.
What is the History of the Seat Belt Gag Law and Seat Belt Defense in LA?
Louisiana’s seat belt gag law was introduced in 1988 to replace a previous provision that allowed “failure to wear a seat belt” to be used as evidence of comparative negligence, causing reductions in plaintiffs’ settlements to be limited to a max of 2%.
An interesting car accident case in Louisiana involved the issue of liability of a mother for failing to restrain her young child in a seat belt or a car seat. The case was tried before the seat belt gag law went into effect in Lousiana, but the court indicated that it did not consider ‘failure to use a seat belt’ to be an important matter. The court ruled that the mother was not negligent in the accident by failing to properly restrain her five-year-old child.
Before Louisiana’s seat belt gag law came into effect, courts used the seat belt defense differently depending upon whether or not the case was considered a “crashworthiness case.” In most regular negligence cases, the seat belt defense was not allowed but in crashworthiness cases, the seat belt defense was allowed. As of 2020, the seat belt defense is still not recognized in Louisiana.
Louisiana is considered a “comparative fault state,” which means that drivers are held liable for their percentage of fault when involved in a car accident. In other words, if the jury says you are 20 percent responsible for your injuries because you did not wear a seat belt, your compensation is lowered by 20 percent. The “seat belt gag law” in Louisiana prevents the jury from assigning fault to the injured party just because of their failure to buckle up. This allows injured parties to attempt to recover full compensation from the insurance companies to cover their expenses from the auto accident.
What Does Crashworthiness mean in a Louisiana Car Accident Case?
“Crashworthiness” can be very important in vehicle defect cases in Louisiana. It refers to the ability of a vehicle to prevent injuries to the occupants during a car accident. Occupants in an auto accident can be injured in a number of ways. Crashworthiness generally deals with cases in which the passengers and driver are injured by colliding against the inside of the vehicle.
Effective crashworthy vehicle design is required to protect the occupants from injury. Crashworthiness features prevent ejection from the vehicle and reduce the risk of fire. These features include seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones.
In order to recover compensation based on a case involving crashworthiness, you will need to show that a design flaw in the car either caused an injury in the auto accident or increased the risk of an injury. One of the best defenses in this type of case is to show that a safety device was available and that the device should have been used to prevent injuries. The experienced car accident attorney at Cueria Law Firm will consider all legal options in your injury case and will enlist the help of expert vehicle design and safety consultants in order to fully protect your right to compensation for your injuries. Contact us now to learn more about how we can help you obtain compensation from a Louisiana car accident case involving crashworthiness.
Is The Seat Belt Gag Law Facing Opposition in Louisiana?
Senate Bill 382, sponsored by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, was a failed attempt to do away with the Louisiana “seat belt gag law” in 2018. Insurance companies say that if this law passes, auto insurance premiums will lower for the whole state. Others do not believe passing this law will bring down auto insurance premiums. Some think that it is an attempt by insurance companies to reduce settlements because, without this law, insurance companies could place blame on the injured victim in a car accident and limit the settlement amount.
What is the Law About Car Seats and Child Seat Belts in Louisiana?
In general, Louisiana law requires that:
- Children under 2 must ride in rear-facing safety seats.
- Kids ages 2-4 must sit in a forward-facing seat with a harness if they have outgrown their rear-facing seat.
- Children ages 4-9 should ride in a child booster seat secured with a lap/ shoulder belt.
- Kids ages 9-12 can sit without a booster seat if their back is against the seatback, their knees bend over the front edge of the seat, and the seat belt crosses their chest and not over their neck.
- Any child under the age of 13 must be in a back seat when possible.
Under previous law, 1-year-olds who weighed at least 20 lbs could be placed in front-facing child safety seats, and children age 6 who weighed more than 60 lbs can wear a regular seat belt, and there wasn’t a restriction on what age a child could ride in the front seat of the car. Driving with a passenger under the age of 18 who’s not secured in any type of safety belt draws a $100 fine for the first offense, with the fine increasing for any further offenses. Drivers that are stopped for a moving violation and found with a child in a restraint that is not age- or size-appropriate maybe ticketed for that as a secondary offense and can be fined up to $100 as well.
Do I Need An Attorney to Help Negotiate My Car Accident Case?
If you want to receive the full amount of compensation from your car accident injury claim, you will need an experienced Louisiana car accident attorney to help you negotiate with the insurance company. Insurance adjusters are trained to get you on the phone quickly after the accident before you even have time to speak with your legal counsel. They will try to get you to speak about your injuries on a recorded line to destroy your case and pay you as little as possible. Many insurance adjusters receive bonuses if they are able to pay less money to you for your injury claim, or if they can trick you into signing to a very low offer. At Cueria Law Firm, we know all the tricks that insurance companies try to pull and we will ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. We have been helping our clients receive millions from insurance companies, and we can help you too. Give us a call now to speak with an attorney in Louisiana for free. 1-800-899-7102