Seatbelt use is one of the best ways to limit the potentially disastrous effects of a serious car accident. According to a recent news report, over the past few decades, lawmakers across the country have tried to cut back on the number of fatal car accidents by passing “click it or ticket” laws, requiring motorists to wear a seatbelt or be fined.
Indeed, Maryland has its own version of the click it or ticket law, which can result in an $83 fine if a motorist is caught driving without their seatbelt. In Maryland, a failure to wear a seatbelt is a primary offense – meaning a police officer can pull a motorist over based solely on not wearing a seatbelt – for drivers, front-seat passengers, and minors under the age of 16. For back-seat passengers over the age of 16, it is a secondary offense, meaning a police officer can only ticket a motorist if there was some other valid reason for the traffic stop.
While it cannot be disputed that seatbelts save lives, seatbelts can only limit the injuries sustained in an accident and can do nothing to prevent accidents themselves. As a result, courts across the country have had to determine whether a car accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt should be admissible evidence at a trial involving the at-fault driver.
Most states have determined that seatbelt non-use is not permissible evidence in the liability stage of a personal injury trial. Indeed, Maryland lawmakers have determined that seatbelt non-use cannot be brought up during a personal injury trial involving a car, truck, or bus accident. Under Maryland Transportation Code Ann. § 22-412.3, a party “may not make reference to a seat belt during a trial of a civil action that involves property damage, personal injury, or death.” There is a limited exception if the allegations involve claims against the vehicle’s manufacturer for failing to install, supply, or repair the seatbelt itself.
The inadmissibility of seatbelt non-use evidence is critically important in Maryland personal injury cases because Maryland employs a very strict rule regarding who can recover damages in personal injury cases. Essentially, under the doctrine of contributory negligence, any party who is determined to be at all at fault in causing the accident cannot recover for their injuries. Thus, an accident victim who is found to be just 10% at fault can be prevented from pursuing a claim against a party that was 90% at fault.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The fact that you may not have been wearing a seatbelt will not be held against you. The skilled injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling Maryland car accident cases, and we have a deep understanding of the applicable evidentiary rules that may be used to give our clients an edge. Call 410-654-3600 today to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation to you unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
More Blog Posts:
U.S. Supreme Court Discusses Which Damages Are Appropriate When a Party Acts in Bad Faith, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published May 9, 2017.
Parental Liability for Car Accidents Caused by Minors, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published April 25, 2017.