Proposed Seat Belt Legislation Could Wreck Motor Vehicle Accident Cases
Today, a state House subcommittee will discuss two separate bills that could change the way automobile accidents are handled in court. House Bills 504 and 532 propose changes to current Georgia law that would allow seat belt usage (or the lack thereof) to be introduced as evidence during the damages phase of car accident torts.
Representative B.J. Pak of Lilburn, Georgia, the main sponsor of House Bill 504, stated that the proposed legislation is meant to “repeal a law that unfairly excludes relevant evidence of contributory negligence,” a perspective that fails to hold water from a legal perspective.
(By definition, contributory negligence would be something that the injured person did that caused a car accident. The failure to wear a seat belt simply doesn’t fall under that heading.)
Subcommittee chairman Mike Jacobs of Brookhaven says that today’s hearing will be a litmus test for the proposed seat belt legislation. Jacobs predicts that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry will speak up in favor of the bills, while the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association will staunchly oppose them.
Atlanta trial lawyer Geoff Pope, former president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and co-founder of Pope & Howard, P.C., doesn’t think that House Bills 504 and 532 should gain approval during this session.
“Legally speaking, we don’t think that seat belt use should be admissible evidence,” Pope said. “Most states do not allow this evidence because the fact remains that a person who isn’t wearing a seat belt would be completely safe if it weren’t for the negligent driving of the wrongdoer.”
Seat belt use is an important element of motor vehicle safety. In fact, we at Pope & Howard, P.C. encourage the legislature to create incentives for motorists to engage in regular seat belt use. But, we are concerned about the potential for admitting seat belt use into evidence at trial.
The purpose of the justice system is to provide compensation to those injured by the wrongful conduct of others. The use or non-use of a seat belt has nothing to do with a crash, and these bills seek to relieve wrongdoers of responsibility simply because the injured person wasn’t wearing one.
Check back to learn more about the development of the proposed seat belt legislation.
About Pope & Howard, P.C.
Founded by Geoff Pope and Marc Howard in 2005, Pope & Howard, P.C. is an Atlanta-based trial law firm that specializes in tractor trailer accidents, motor vehicle crashes, construction site injuries, and other cases involving catastrophic personal injury.
If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of another, call the expert trial attorneys of Pope & Howard, P.C. at (866) 910-0642 to schedule your initial consultation.