Question: Is Evidence Of A Motorist Not Wearing Their Seat Belt At The Time Of An Auto Accident Admissible To Prove Contributory Negligence?
Answer: No, The Violation Of The Seatbelt Act May Not Be Used To Prove Contributory Negligence. Contributory negligence allows a defendant to escape or at least lessen liability if he or she can show that the plaintiff was also negligent and that the plaintiff’s negligence was a responsible cause of his or her injuries. The plaintiff’s actions do not need to be the sole cause of the injuries. In fact, under common law principles, any contributory negligence on the plaintiff’s part, no matter how slight, will bar all recovery provided that the plaintiff’s negligence actually caused his or her injuries. Negligence per se is the unexcused or unjustified violation of a duty prescribed by statute where the statute is intended to protect the class of persons in which the plaintiff is included and to protect against the type of harm which has occurred as a result of the violation. It is a well-established principle of statutory interpretation that where a statute is in derogation of the common law, we must construe it strictly against the expansion of liability. Accordingly, as there has not been a clear mandate from the legislature stating that seatbelt usage may be used to prove fault under the common law, the courts hold that the legislature has not altered common law.