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Bill passed: Juries should consider seatbelt usage in safety lawsuits

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The Missouri legislature has passed a common-sense bill that allows juries to consider whether a person’s failure to wear a seatbelt may have contributed to accident injuries.

It’s common knowledge that failing to use a seatbelt can lead to an increased risk of injury in a crash. But that idea is missing from Missouri courts today.

In vehicle injury lawsuits, juries in the state carefully consider the design of the vehicle and the safety features in determining whether a fault in the vehicle contributed to the injury. However, they are barred from considering whether a motorist or passenger failed to wear a seatbelt and how that decision might have exacerbated injuries.

Senate Bill 30 fixes this problem and has been sent to Gov. Mike Parson to be signed into law.

During a February hearing on the legislation, Sen. Dan Hegeman, a Republican from Cosby, said his bill, “empowers juries to render a decision on product liability cases that accurately reflects their assessment of the evidence.”

He also said that current law ties the hands of juries deciding auto product liability lawsuits.

“Seatbelts are key safety equipment and juries asked to evaluate the safety of a car’s design should not be limited on how much they can reduce damages when a vehicle occupant chooses not to use a safety belt,” he said.

The Missouri Chamber advocated for the bill this session and testified in support during hearings on the measure.

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