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.

Do I need a lawyer for my car wreck case?

Attorney George B. Jones


Do I have a case for a lawsuit?: My family and I got into a vehicle accident just over a month ago and I have been in pain every since then!! I have been going through physical therapy but it is not helping.
Everyone is saying to contact a lawyer?

George’s answer: Generally, if the other party is at fault, their insurance company will try to get you to settle quickly, before you get a lawyer. They offer you quick money before you even know the full extent of your injury. A good personal injury lawyer will help you reach a proper evaluation of the value of your case, which will include many things the insurance company is not likely to include in their initial offer to you–things like future medical bills, pain, lost wages, future lost wages, temporary and permanent disability. If you are not well, you need to be seeking appropriate medical treatment and you need to wait until you have fully recovered before you accept any settlement from an insurance company. Your claim may exceed the value of the other party’s insurance, in which case you may have a claim under your own policy for underinsured coverage. Sometimes your policy allows you to “stack” uninsured coverage so that you can double the value of your UM coverage if you have two vehicles. Navigating the legal and medical issues surrounding a personal injury claim is not easy. You need someone on your side who knows the rules and knows how to get the insurance company to pay what you deserve. You definitely need a personal injury lawyer working for you. Good luck.

Insurance company won’t pay?

What should you do if your car is damaged by the negligence of another driver, but their insurance company won’t pay the full amount of your damages?

This question illustrates two basic truths about auto insurance. First, insurance companies are interested in their own profit. So they never want to pay more than they have to. Second, insurance companies protect their own insured from financial liability. The other guy’s insurance company is not there to help you. They want to get your case closed for the least amount of money. When another driver is at fault but his insurance company won’t pay, you need a lawyer to fight for you. Your lawyer can even the playing field by making it clear to the insurance company that you will sue if they don’t pay the true value of the claim. When the insurance company realizes you are ready to sue, suddenly your request for fair compensation doesn’t sound so bad. It’s all about the money for them.

Call me today if you need help recovering for injuries you received in an auto accident. I will determine the responsibility of the other party and get you the money you deserve.

What if your auto insurance expired?

Can you sue for injuries you receive in an auto accident even if your own insurance policy has expired?

Those who cause damage to others are responsible, under the law, to pay the injured person a sufficient sum of money to “make them whole.” The primary purpose of the insurance you buy for your own vehicle is to protect you from having to pay others for the damages and injuries you cause to them by your negligent actions–with limited exceptions, your insurance doesn’t pay you for your injuries, it protects you from the financial risk of having to pay someone you have injured. So, if the other party caused the accident, you can recover from them the reasonable value of your damages and injuries, regardless of whether you had insurance on your vehicle, or were driving on an expired license or expired tags. Keep in mind that the law of contributory negligence may apply to restrict all or a portion of your recovery if you shared in the responsibility for causing the accident. In Iowa, as long as the other party was more at fault than you, your injuries are still compensable, even if you were partly to blame for the accident. The bottom line is that whether you had insurance or not, you may be able to recover for your injuries, even if you think you were partly at fault in causing the accident. This depends on the law of your state and the facts of your case, so always consult an experienced personal injury lawyer after any accident in which you or a loved one is injured.

Call me today if you need help recovering for injuries you received in an auto accident. I will determine the responsibility of the other party and get you the money you deserve.

Don’t “just pay” that traffic ticket!

Never plead guilty to a traffic ticket issued in connection with an auto accident.

Many people just pay their traffic tickets without giving a second thought to the consequences. In Iowa, if you get a ticket in connection with a car wreck or other accident you should NEVER just plead guilty and pay the ticket. Why? Iowa Code Section 321.489 provides that the record of a CONVICTION of a violation of Chapter 321 (Iowa’s traffic code) is inadmissible in any subsequent civil action. However, the record of a guilty plea is admissible. So if you just pay the ticket, and later you get sued for causing the accident, your own negligence (due to speeding, running a stop sign, or other traffic violation) will be simple for the opposing party to prove. They can use your conviction record to prove you actually did what the ticket charged. But, if you go to trial and the judge finds you guilty, the record of conviction from the case becomes inadmissible at the later civil trial. So next time you get a ticket, EVEN IF YOU ARE GUILTY, enter a not guilty plea and show up for the trial. Often there are multiple causes of an accident, and by pleading guilty to a traffic offense, you may limit your ability to recover for your own injuries by giving the insurance company lawyers easy proof that you were at fault.