Seat Belt Evidence Stalls Out in 2021 Georgia Legislative Session – by J. Robb Cruser

The 2021 Georgia legislative session ended March 31 without the General Assembly passing HB 200, which would have amended Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to motor vehicles and traffic to, among other changes, provide for the failure to wear a safety belt or safety restraints as admissible evidence in civil actions. Under current law, “the failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seat safety belt … shall not be considered evidence of negligence or causation, shall not otherwise be considered by the finder of fact on any question of liability … and shall not be evidence used to diminish any recovery for damages.”

If passed, the bill would have revised the law to stipulate that “the failure of an occupant of a passenger vehicle to wear a seat safety belt in any seat of a motor vehicle which has a seat safety belt or belts may be considered in any civil action as evidence admissible on the issues of failure to mitigate damages, assumption of risk, apportionment of fault, negligence, comparative negligence, contributory negligence, or causation, and may be evidence used to diminish any recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, occupancy, or operation of a motor vehicle.”

The bill, sponsored by Representative Alan Powell (R-32), passed the Georgia House in February, but despite support from the defense bar, it did not come to a vote on the Senate floor before the end of the legislative session.