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Iowa’s seat belt law: protecting yourself from personal injury

Everyone knows that the use of seat belts is required under Iowa law. The Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety have both put out public information to explain the contours of Iowa’s seat belt law. The law requires drivers, passengers, and children, to be restrained in vehicles, with few exceptions, in order to prevent personal injury in motor vehicle accidents.

One interesting aspect of Iowa’s seat belt law is often referred to as the seat belt defense. If you are injured by the fault of another driver, and your failure to wear a seat belt contributes to your personal injury, the law allows a jury to reduce your damage award by up to five percent.

Under Iowa Code Section 321.445, the non-use of a seat belt by an injured party cannot generally be presented at trial as a means to try to shift responsibility for causing the injury to the injured plaintiff. However, the law does allow the jury to reduce the damage award by up to five percent, if the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness contributed to the injury sustained.

The law reads:

  1. a. The nonuse of a safety belt or safety harness by a person is not admissible or material as evidence in a civil action brought for damages in a cause of action arising prior to July 1, 1986. In a cause of action arising on or after July 1, 1986, brought to recover damages arising out of the ownership or operation of a motor vehicle, the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section shall not be considered evidence of comparative fault under section 668.3, subsection 1. However, except as provided in section 321.446, subsection 6, the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section may be admitted to mitigate damages, but only under the following circumstances:

(1) Parties seeking to introduce evidence of the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section must first introduce substantial evidence that the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness contributed to the injury or injuries claimed by the plaintiff.

(2) If the evidence supports such a finding, the trier of fact may find that the plaintiff’s failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section contributed to the plaintiff’s claimed injury or injuries, and may reduce the amount of plaintiff’s recovery by an amount not to exceed five percent of the damages awarded after any reductions for comparative fault.

Iowa Code Section 321.445.

The law requires you to buckle up. And it requires you to buckle up your kids. And since 2010, even back seat passengers must wear their seat belts.

Stay safe and buckle up–it’s the law, and it might protect you or your loved ones from serious injury.

If you or a family member is injured in a car wreck, call me for a free consultation. I work with injured clients to recover the full measure of the damages suffered. A fair settlement is no accident.  See what my clients have to say about me.

George B. Jones, Personal Injury and Car Wreck Attorney. Serving clients across Southern Iowa. Call me today. (641) 784-6970.

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