The Seatbelt Defense Theory


When you have been injured in a car accident, the driver responsible and his or her insurance company may do whatever they can to argue that he or she was not in fact liable. One method that they often navigate for doing such is claiming that they weren’t the only one to blame; that someone else was also to blame. This is called diminished liability and will serve to award the victim less in damages. An example of this diminished liability is the seat belt defense theory.

What Is the Seat Belt Defense?

Various states allow defendants to use the seat belt defense theory, which essentially says that the plaintiff is in part to blame for his or her own injuries because he or she was not wearing a seatbelt at the time that the accident occurred. In other words, the defendant is claiming comparative fault. It is important to note that this defense usually only holds any merit if it is reasonable that a seatbelt would have prevented some of the plaintiff’s injuries (or extent of his or her injuries). This is proven with the use of a medical expert who will testify to this. Additionally, a defendant may only use the seat belt defense in a state that allows for it. 

Can a Defendant Use the Seat Belt Theory in NM?

In the state of New Mexico, failure to wear a seat belt is a primary offense. This means that a police officer may pull you over for the sole fact that you are not wearing a seat belt. State law says that all motor vehicle drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt, with car and booster seats mandated according to age and size. 

But although New Mexico has a universal seat belt law, it does not allow for a seat belt defense in civil court. Under state law, the act of not wearing a seat belt does not amount to fault or negligence for purposes of diminishing a defendant’s liability and therefore his or her responsibility to compensate the plaintiff for any related injuries.

The state’s stance is not too surprising considering that 30 states do not allow for a seat belt defense theory, 26 of which specifically prohibit the use of one. Therefore if you were not wearing a seat belt at the time that another vehicle hit yours, it cannot be used against you for purposes of compensation. If a attempts to use this theory in New Mexico the plaintiff should have it stricken from the record.

MPJ Law Firm Can Help Those in NM Who Have Been Injured in a Car Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, it can greatly impact your life. It can be difficult enough dealing with extensive injuries, but it can be even harder when you are left to pick up the pieces financially. You should never have to pay the price for someone else’s mistakes. 

At MPJ Law Firm, we have a deep understanding of car accidents and understand the effects that such accidents often have on just about all aspects of your life. We will always act in your best interest. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Automobile Accidents