Except for New Hampshire, every U.S. state has laws that require most drivers and other front-seat occupants to wear a seat belt. Louisiana, like many other states, also has laws that require seat belt use in the back seat.
These laws apply to those over the age of 9, with few exceptions. Children under age 9 fall under the state’s “child passenger restraint system” rules, per La. R.S. § 32:295.
If you’re like most adults in Louisiana, you spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Driving to work, running errands, picking up the kids. It’s easy to become complacent with so much time on the road. Unfortunately, all it takes is one drunk, distracted, or negligent driver to cause a tragedy. Wearing a seat belt could prevent injury or death.
Louisiana Requires Most People to Wear Seat Belts
If you’re not wearing a seat belt when an accident happens, you are far more likely to sustain injuries or die. For this reason, Louisiana laws require most drivers to wear seat belts whenever their vehicles are in motion. According to La. R.S. § 32:295.1, there are only a few exceptions to this rule, including:
- People who have disabilities that prevent them from wearing seat belts
- Those who operate vehicles in which the manufacturer did not install seat belts
- In certain situations, rural letter carriers of the United States Postal Service
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Penalties for Not Wearing a Seat Belt While Driving in Louisiana
Drivers who violate Louisiana’s seat belt law will face a fine. To stop you and cite you for this offense, an officer must have had a clear, unobstructed view of you driving without wearing a seat belt.
However, violating this law does not give the officer the right to inspect or search you, your vehicle, its contents, or a passenger. As of Oct. 31, 1995, people who violate Louisiana’s seat belt law will face the following penalties:
- A $25 fine for the first offense, which includes court costs
- A $50 fine for the second offense, which includes court costs
- A third or subsequent offense comes with a $50 fine in addition to court costs
Seat Belt Laws and Comparative Negligence
Although your risk of suffering an injury in an accident is higher if you are not wearing a seat belt, violating this law would not be considered evidence of comparative negligence. This is important because comparative negligence can significantly reduce the value of an insurance claim or court award after a crash.
If the at-fault driver can show that you contributed to causing the collision or worsening your injuries, this could reduce your ability to recover compensation in Louisiana. In some states, such as Alabama, it could bar you from recovering monetary damages at all. However, the courts have ruled that a seat belt violation is not comparative negligence.
For example, imagine you were in a crash that another motorist caused. You suffered a broken leg and required surgery. Your damages include:
- Medical bills
- Lost income from missing work
- Car repairs
- Pain and suffering
- Other intangible losses
You need to recover financial compensation to pay for your treatment, fix your car, and take care of other bills. If the at-fault driver could successfully argue that you contributed to your injuries because you were not wearing a seat belt, you might only recover a part of the monetary damages you need.
However, this is generally not effective in Louisiana, and you should not be held responsible for your injuries because you didn’t use a seat belt. Of course, wearing the safety belt might have lessened your injuries, so this is not a good reason to skip it.
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Seat Belt Use Saves Thousands of Lives, the NHTSA Reports
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that seat belts saved 14,955 lives in 2017 and more than 69,000 lives during the five years between 2013 and 2017. In Louisiana alone, they list 278 lives saved directly because of restraint use.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to reduce injuries and prevent fatalities in crashes. Still, the NHTSA estimates that seat belt use was only about 90.3 percent in 2020.
Speak with an Attorney from Morris Bart, LLC, for Free Today
If a negligent driver injured you in Louisiana, a personal injury lawyer from the Morris Bart law firm will review your case for free. An accident attorney from our team will assess your accident to determine if you have grounds for a claim.
If so, we may be able to help you claim compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and non-economic damages. Call (800) 537-8185 for your free consultation.
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