When a motorist is injured in an Indiana car accident as the result of someone else’s negligence, state law allows the victim to recover damages against the party at fault through a civil lawsuit. However, plaintiffs should always be aware of potential reductions in their monetary award, including reductions due to comparative negligence. In Indiana, comparative negligence laws will reduce a plaintiff’s recovery if they were at all at fault, and the award may be lessened by the amount the plaintiff was at fault. For instance, if in a car accident the court finds that the plaintiff was 5% at fault and the defendant was 95% at fault, the plaintiff’s $100,000 award would be reduced to $95,000.
Plaintiffs often need a damages award to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other costs that they accrued in the aftermath of an accident. Luckily, Indiana law includes important limits on what can and cannot count as evidence of comparative negligence. An important example is seat belt non-use evidence. When an individual does not wear a seat belt, they may be more likely to get injured if they do get into an automobile accident. However, in Indiana, an appellate court made clear in a 2015 case that evidence of seat belt non-use cannot count as evidence to reduce a plaintiff’s award. According to the court’s written opinion, Indiana plaintiffs injured in car accidents can still receive the full amount of recovery, even if they were not wearing their seat belt at the time of the accident.
Even after the clear court opinion, defendants may still try to use seat belt non-use evidence to convince a jury or a judge to reduce a plaintiff’s award. Plaintiffs can use the 2015 ruling to suppress this evidence by filing something called a motion in limine. If granted, this motion ensures that a jury will not see or hear evidence about a plaintiff’s seat belt non-use, which could prejudice the plaintiff. While the rule is pretty straightforward, it can sometimes be difficult to spot sneaky attempts at introducing evidence or pinning the blame on the plaintiff, so accident victims are advised to be vigilant in their civil suits. Additionally, the assistance of an attorney experienced in spotting these issues can take some of the pressure off of the victim and their family while they recover from their injuries.