The Texas Supreme Court recently granted the petition in Nabors Well Services, Ltd. v. Romero and agreed to consider whether the non-use of a seatbelt by the Plaintiff in an auto accident case should be admissible to reduce the Plaintiffs’ damages. Many Texans will recall a time when the decision whether to wear a seatbelt was considered to be a personal decision. When the seatbelt laws were first proposed they were vigorously opposed as an unjustified governmental intrusion into individuals’ private lives. One of the compromises made to gain the passage of the laws was the agreement that the failure of an accident victim to wear a seat belt would not be used to reduce the victims’ damages. The concern was that insurance companies would use the failure to wear a seatbelt as an excuse to refuse to pay legitimate claims.
The seatbelt law was repealed in 2003 but until now the Texas Supreme Court has not considered the issue. The Texas Supreme Court is a political body and it is often difficult to predict what politicians will do but it seems likely that the Court will allow insurance companies to admit and argue the failure of an injured party to wear a seatbelt to reduce damages.
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