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.

Personal injury damages–impact of pre-existing conditions


In personal injury cases, there are times where an injured party had a pre-existing condition that was made worse by a new accident. Because of the prior condition, the plaintiff’s injuries are more severe than they would have been had the plaintiff not had the pre-existing condition.

Suppose that you are rear-ended in a car wreck a week after neck surgery. You would likely suffer more severe damages that a person whose neck was perfectly healthy before the crash.

So, does this mean that the at-fault party is responsible for your additional damages? Under the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, yes, the at-fault party would be responsible for your additional damages.  This is true, even though your damages were made worse by your prior medical condition and surgery.

Under the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, an at-fault party must take the victim as they find them. An injured party’s damages are not reduced because he or she is more susceptible to an injury than most people. Essentially, the eggshell plaintiff rule holds the defendant financially responsible for all damages that his or her negligence caused, regardless of the plaintiff’s frail or delicate condition or preexisting injuries.

About Pre-Existing Injuries

Even though the eggshell plaintiff rule is well-understood in Iowa and throughout the nation, that doesn’t stop insurance companies from trying to claim that a plaintiff’s injuries were pre-existing and not caused by the accident – this is a dirty trick played by insurance companies.

If you had a pre-existing injury, don’t let that stop you from filing a personal injury claim. Even if your pre-existing injuries made the claim more expensive, you still have every right to file a claim against the at-fault party. All law students learn about the eggshell plaintiff rule and how a victim with pre-existing injuries is entitled to damages, even if they were in a minor fender-bender. However, not all plaintiffs know that their pre-existing injuries cannot be used to reduce their claim.

If you were injured in an accident and you would be deemed an eggshell plaintiff, don’t let that stop you from filing a claim for compensation. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation to review your personal injury case.

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.