Is the Seat Belt Defense Allowed in Pennsylvania?

Wearing your seat belt is one of the most effective ways to prevent serious injury or death in a motor vehicle accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) seat belts prevented 14,000 traffic-related deaths and reduced serious crash-related injuries by almost one-half in 2015. Sadly, many people still refuse to buckle up even though evidence shows it protects them in an accident and it is the law. 

What is the Seat Belt Law in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has a primary and secondary law regarding safety restraints. Drivers and passengers in the front seat who are 19 years or older are required to wear a seat belt — this is a secondary law.  Police officers can only issue a ticket if the driver is pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding.

However, the remaining laws regarding seat belts are considering primary laws, meaning the police officer can initiate a traffic stop for the seat belt violation without any other traffic violation being detected. Primary enforcement requires that all children under age four must be restrained in a child safety seat approved for their age, weight, and height. Children between the ages of 4 and eight years are required to be in a booster seat. Children between the ages of 8 and 18 years must wear a seat belt regardless of their seating position in the vehicle.

Regardless of the law, we urge everyone to buckle up for their own safety!

What is the Seat Belt Defense?

Some states have what is referred to as a “seat belt defense” that can be used in motor vehicle accidents. The defendant can introduce evidence at trial that the accident victim was not wearing a safety restraint at the time of the collision. Therefore, the victim is partially responsible for the extent of his or her injuries because the victim did not exercise due care by using a safety belt for protection when riding in an automobile. Depending on the state’s contributory or comparative negligence standard, the victim could be denied compensation or compensation could be decreased based on the seat belt defense.

Pennsylvania does not permit defendants to use the seat belt defense to deny liability or limit liability. Subchapter E of Chapter 45, Title 75 of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes sets forth the laws regarding vehicle occupant protection. Section 4585 specifically states “The requirements of this subchapter or evidence of a violation of this subchapter may not be used by an insurer for any purpose.”  In other words, the insurance company for the defendant in a car accident case cannot introduce evidence of seat belt use or non-use to limit liability.

However, this does not stop insurance adjuster from trying to bully accident victims into settling for low offers before the person seeks legal counsel from an experienced Erie car accident attorney. If you have been injured in a car accident, it is in your best interest to consult our attorney before you agree to any settlement or provide a statement to an insurance adjuster.

Call for Your Free Appointment and No-Obligation Case Evaluation

Contact The Travis Law Firm toll-free at (800) 401-2066 to schedule a free legal consultation with one of our Erie accident attorneys.  We accept most accident cases on a contingency fee basis, so it does not cost you anything up front to obtain sound, trusted legal advice. You pay our attorney fee after we obtain a settlement on your behalf.