The House Judiciary Committee heard HB 1011, authored by Rep. Torr, on passenger restraint systems. Rep. Torr introduced this bill explaining that it repeals the current provision that failure to comply with safety belt laws and child passenger restraint system laws does not constitute fault or contributory negligence. The bill also prohibits the admission of evidence of failure to comply with safety belt laws in civil actions to mitigate damages. Rep. Torr explained the intent of the bill is to allow judges to decide whether to admit evidence about an injured party wearing a safety belt at the time of an accident.
An attorney with the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association testified against the bill, discussing several public policy concerns about the burden shifting to victims of accidents. Another Indiana Trial Lawyers Association attorney also testified against the bill, noting that mitigation of damages usually occurs after an injury has occurred and that this will establish a new concept permitting mitigating issues to be introduced before the injury is incurred. A representative of the Insurance Institute of Indiana testified supporting the bill, explaining that seatbelt usage nationally is approximately 83%, that the bill is reverting to common law where the judge and jury decide the admissibility of the statutory seatbelt duty, and that the mitigation of damages is consistent with Indiana’s comparative fault scheme. A representative of State Farm Insurance testified in support of the bill to encourage seat belt use. Representatives from the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, the Indiana Manufacturers Association, and a local defense attorney also testified in support of the bill. Rep. Torr withdrew the bill to consider whether to do a strip and insert to repeal the mandatory seatbelt law.
Read the bill at http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/house/1011.