In Indiana, all occupants of a vehicle must be properly restrained while the vehicle is moving. For anyone 12 years or older, that means wearing a seat belt. For children younger than 12, that means using a car seat appropriate for their height, weight, and age.
According to the Indiana Code, “each occupant of a motor vehicle equipped with a safety belt that (1) meets the standards stated in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 208 (49 CFR 571.208); and (2) is standard equipment installed by the manufacturer; shall have a safety belt properly fastened about the occupant’s body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion.”
There are very few exceptions to this law. Even stricter recommendations apply to restraining children under eight years old in a moving vehicle:
- Up to one year old: Infant-only, rear-facing safety seat in the back seat or a convertible seat, rear-facing in the back seat
- One to three years old: Convertible or booster seat, rear-facing in the back seat until height or weight requires forward-facing with a harness in the back seat
- Four to seven years old: Forward-facing car seat with a harness in the back seat
- Eight to twelve years old: Booster seat in the back seat until adult seat belt fits properly (lap belt snugly across upper thighs and shoulder belt snugly across the shoulder and chest)
Be sure to check the height and weight limits on your car seat. Remember, even after your child outgrows a booster seat, they are not allowed to sit in the front seat until they are twelve years old.
Does Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Your Insurance Claim?
In Indiana, not wearing a seat belt may or may not affect your claim, depending on the circumstances of the car accident.
Seat Belt Compliance in a Personal Injury Claim
According to the Indiana Code, failure to wear a seat belt “does not limit the liability of an insurer” and “may not be admitted in a civil action to mitigate damages.”
This is good news. It means that if you’re injured a car accident due to human error, then whether or not you were wearing a seat belt cannot be used against you in your personal injury claim.
Seat Belt Compliance in a Product Liability Claim
Evidence that you neglected to wear a seat belt can be admitted “in a product liability action involving a motor vehicle restraint or supplemental restraint system. The defendant in such an action has the burden of proving noncompliance with this chapter and that compliance with this chapter would have reduced injuries, and the extent of the reduction.”
That means that if your injuries are due to a malfunctioning car, not a reckless driver, then whether or not you were wearing your seat belt may affect your ability to seek damages.
However, the defendant would have to prove that you weren’t wearing your seat belt, and that your injuries would be reduced by a certain amount if you had been wearing your seat belt.
An Indianapolis car accident lawyer can help you pursue damages after a car accident, regardless of whether or not you were wearing a seat belt.
The Consequences of Not Wearing a Seat Belt in Indiana
In Indiana, you may receive a fine not only if you don’t wear a seat belt, but also if any passengers 16 years or older do not wear their seat belts. You’re also responsible for any child in your vehicle not restrained according to the guidelines for their height, weight, and age.
Being injured or filing a personal injury claim does not exempt you from paying fines for failing to comply with Indiana seat belt laws. Any damages you recover from your personal injury claim will likely not include your fines.
Of course, the worst consequence of not wearing a seat belt isn’t a fine. It’s an injury or loss of life.
In 2015, approximately 52 percent of drivers killed in Indiana were not properly restrained. Passengers were affected in every seating position as well. 39 percent of those killed in the front passenger seat and 70 percent of those killed in the back seat were not properly restrained.
Overall, drivers in Indiana were 14 times more likely to be killed in a car accident if they weren’t properly restrained.
These statistics are grim, but Indiana is at work to improve them. Indiana is one of the many states running the Click It or Ticket program, an annual five-week crackdown on improper seat belt use. The state also has the Buckle Up Bug program, which encourages children grades K-3 to “bug” their family to follow Indiana seat belt laws.
In 2016, Indiana’s overall seat belt usage rate was 92.4 percent.
Do Car Seats Need to be Replaced after a Car Accident?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you should replace car seats after a moderate to severe crash. You don’t automatically have to replace a car seat after a minor crash.
To determine if your crash was minor or moderate, ask yourself these questions:
- Was I unable to drive my car away from the accident site?
- Is the door nearest to the car seat damaged?
- Was anyone in my car injured?
- Did the air bags deploy?
- Is there visible damage to the car seat?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you were in a moderate car accident and need to replace your car seat.
Help from an Indiana Car Accident Lawyer
Regardless of whether or not you were wearing a seat belt, you may still have a claim. Our Indiana car accident attorneys are here to help. Call Hensley Legal Group today at (317) 472-3333, or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim.