FAILURE TO BUCKLE UP NOW A DEFENSE

Every person responsible for causing a plaintiff’s injuries should be apportioned fault by Texas juries, even if the injury-causing event is not proximately caused by such conduct. But in car accident cases for the last 40 years, out-dated case precedent has allowed Texas judges to exclude evidence of a plaintiff’s failure to wear his seatbelt, thus preventing defendants from apportioning fault to plaintiffs who exacerbated or increased their own injuries without causing the car accident. This is no longer the law in Texas. In Nabors Well Service v. Romero, an important opinion that was released on Feb. 13, the Supreme Court of Texas instructed Texas litigators and judges that the failure to wear a seat belt is relevant to a plaintiff’s percentage of responsibility for his own injuries. Texas law is now clear that pre-accident conduct by a plaintiff that exacerbates or increases a plaintiff’s injuries is generally relevant and admissible as a means for a defendant to prove contributory negligence against a plaintiff, and a plaintiff’s recovery from defendants can be reduced by such pre-accident conduct using Texas’s statutory proportionate responsibility scheme.

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