Amendment to Iowa’s “Failure to Use Seatbelt Comparative Fault Statute”

  • Mar 21, 2018

Legislative Update by Attorney Clarissa Bierstedt

On March 15, 2018, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law an amendment to Iowa Code Section 321.445. This statute provides in part that a plaintiff’s failure to use a seat belt as required by Iowa law may be admitted as evidence of the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages in certain circumstances. Prior to the amendment, the potential amount of comparative fault that could be assigned to a plaintiff for not wearing a seat belt was 5%. With the new amendment, this has been raised to 25%. This means a plaintiff can now be assigned up to 25% fault if the failure to wear a seat belt contributed to the plaintiff’s claimed injuries.

The amended section of the statute now provides as follows:

321.445. Safety belts and safety harnesses--use required

4. b. In a cause of action arising on or after July 1, 1986, brought to recover damages arising out of the ownership or operation of a motor vehicle, the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section shall not be considered evidence of comparative fault under section 668.3, subsection 1.However, except as provided in section 321.446, subsection 6, the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section may be admitted to mitigate damages, but only under the following circumstances:

(1) Parties seeking to introduce evidence of the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section must first introduce substantial evidence that the failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness contributed to the injury or injuries claimed by the plaintiff.

(2) If the evidence supports such a finding, the trier of fact may find that the plaintiff's failure to wear a safety belt or safety harness in violation of this section contributed to the plaintiff's claimed injury or injuries, and may reduce the amount of plaintiff's recovery by an amount not to exceed twenty-five percent of the damages awarded after any reductions for comparative fault.

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