Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana on Monday signed into law a bill that allows a plaintiff’s failure to use a seatbelt to be introduced as evidence in vehicle accident lawsuits. The bill permits juries to reduce damage awards based on that information.

House Bill 1090 has drawn praise from Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. After legislators passed the bill in February, Spear said the existing law forbidding seatbelt use as evidence leaves jurors with incomplete information when rendering a verdict.

It was the fourth attempt in as many years to enact such a law, according to news accounts. Earlier versions died in committee.

Critics of the legislation said it draws attention away from the question of who actually caused an accident, the Indiana Capital Chronicle reported.

The change, as well as a measure that Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin passed to limit some damage awards in lawsuits stemming from commercial vehicle accidents, comes amid growing concern about skyrocketing insurance costs related to multimillion-dollar nuclear verdicts against trucking companies. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin has not yet acted on the legislation in that state, which would cap awards for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $1 million.

An American Transportation Research Institute study found that verdicts greater than $1 million in truck crash lawsuits rose on average from $2.3 million in 2010 to $22.3 million in 2018.

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