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A New Seat Belt Law Might Come into Effect in 2020

A New Seat Belt Law Might Come into Effect in 2020

It’s a battle that no one wants to face: one between trial lawyers, car crash victims, and car insurance companies. The question is whether a seat belt was used in a car crash. Should a jury be able to know the victim did not wear a seat belt?

Some Stats

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Georgia is at the top of the list when it comes to drivers buckling up with 97% in 2016 recorded as seat belt users.

  • The state is also one of 34 that allows police to pull over an unbuckled driver. It is a fifteen-dollar fine if law enforcement catches you not wearing a seat belt.

  • And out of 49 states, Georgia is one of 29 that bar the seat belt use as evidence in a lawsuit.

By law, do you have to wear your seatbelt in Georgia? Yes. But, think of this:

You run a red light and t-bone another car. Clearly, you’re at fault. The other driver, however, was not wearing his seat belt. He was ejected from the car and died. You are stuck with killing him and can be sued for a lot of money (much more than if he was wearing his seat belt). If he had been wearing his seat belt, he may not have even been injured.

Currently, whether he wore his seat belt isn’t allowed into evidence (the jury will presume he was wearing his seatbelt and will never be told he wasn’t).

Do you think that’s fair?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section or contact me!

Reference

As a reference, the Georgia Seat Belt law can be found in O.C.G.A. 40-8-76.1 and it reads as follows:

(a) As used in this Code section, the term "passenger vehicle" means every motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, pickup trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles, designed to carry 15 passengers or fewer and used for the transportation of persons; provided, however, that such term shall not include motorcycles; motor driven cycles; or off-road vehicles or pickup trucks being used by an owner, driver, or occupant 18 years of age or older in connection with agricultural pursuits that are usual and normal to the user's farming operation; and provided, further, that such term shall not include motor vehicles designed to carry 11 to 15 passengers which were manufactured prior to July 1, 2015, and which, as of such date, did not have manufacturer installed seat safety belts.


(b) Each occupant of the front seat of a passenger vehicle shall, while such passenger vehicle is being operated on a public road, street, or highway of this state, be restrained by a seat safety belt approved under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208.


(c) The requirement of subsection (b) of this Code section shall not apply to:


(1) A driver or passenger frequently stopping and leaving the vehicle or delivering property from the vehicle, if the speed of the vehicle between stops does not exceed 15 miles per hour;
(2) A driver or passenger possessing a written statement from a physician that such person is unable, for medical or physical reasons, to wear a seat safety belt;
(3) A driver or passenger possessing an official certificate or license endorsement issued by the appropriate agency in another state or country indicating that the driver is unable for medical, physical, or other valid reasons to wear a seat safety belt;
(4) A driver operating a passenger vehicle in reverse;
(5) A passenger vehicle with a model year prior to 1965;
(6) A passenger vehicle which is not required to be equipped with seat safety belts under federal law;
(7) A passenger vehicle operated by a rural letter carrier of the United States Postal Service while performing duties as a rural letter carrier;
(8) A passenger vehicle from which a person is delivering newspapers; or
(9) A passenger vehicle performing an emergency service.
(d) The failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seat safety belt in any seat of a motor vehicle which has a seat safety belt or belts shall not be considered evidence of negligence or causation, shall not otherwise be considered by the finder of fact on any question of liability of any person, corporation, or insurer, shall not be any basis for cancellation of coverage or increase in insurance rates, and shall not be evidence used to diminish any recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, occupancy, or operation of a motor vehicle.

(e)
(1) Except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of this subsection, a person failing to comply with the requirements of subsection (b) of this Code section shall not be guilty of any criminal act and shall not be guilty of violating any ordinance. A violation of this Code section shall not be a moving traffic violation for purposes of Code Section 40-5-57.

(2) A person failing to comply with the requirements of subsection (b) of this Code section shall be guilty of the offense of failure to wear a seat safety belt and, upon conviction thereof, may be fined not more than $15.00; but, the provisions of Chapter 11 of Title 17 and any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the costs of such prosecution shall not be taxed nor shall any additional penalty, fee, or surcharge to a fine for such offense be assessed against a person for conviction thereof. The court imposing such fine shall forward a record of the disposition of the case of failure to wear a seat safety belt to the Department of Driver Services.

(3) Each minor eight years of age or older who is an occupant of a passenger vehicle shall, while such passenger vehicle is being operated on a public road, street, or highway of this state, be restrained by a seat safety belt approved under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208. In any case where a minor passenger eight years of age or older fails to comply with the requirements of this paragraph, the driver of the passenger vehicle shall be guilty of the offense of failure to secure a seat safety belt on a minor and, upon conviction thereof, may be fined not more than $25.00. The court imposing such a fine shall forward a record of the court disposition of the case of failure to secure a seat safety belt on a minor to the Department of Driver Services.

(f) Probable cause for violation of this Code section shall be based solely upon a law enforcement officer's clear and unobstructed view of a person not restrained as required by this Code section. Noncompliance with the restraint requirements of this Code section shall not constitute probable cause for violation of any other Code section.

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