The Role of Seatbelts In Car Accident Claims
North Carolina Auto Accident Attorney On How Not Wearing a Seatbelt Affects Your Claim
If you sustained serious injuries in a car accident in North Carolina that was not your fault, you may be concerned about how it could affect your case if you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of the crash. The answer is that it should not matter at all. Your failure to buckle up played no role in causing the crash. The other driver’s negligence was the cause of your car accident injuries. North Carolina law entitles you to recover full compensation for all your damages, even if you were not wearing a seatbelt. However, many insurance companies and their attorneys will attempt to shift the blame if they discover that you were not wearing your seatbelt at the time of the accident. They may imply that you deserve less compensation because you were somehow responsible for your injuries.
At Riddle & Brantley, LLP our attorneys are prepared to see that justice is done in your case. We stand up to insurance companies who attempt to shirk their duty to pay car accident victims fair compensation. We also have a record of success with car accident claims against big insurance companies. If you need a North Carolina auto accident attorney, contact our law offices in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Kinston or Jacksonville. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Are Seatbelts Mandatory in North Carolina?
Buckling up is mandatory for occupants in both the front and back seats of passenger vehicles, by North Carolina law. The law applies to all passenger vehicles with a maximum occupancy of fewer than 11 passengers that are required by federal law to be equipped with seatbelts. This covers most cars built after 1967 and most light trucks and vans built after 1971.
However, you should always wear a safety belt, even when traveling in a state that has no seatbelt laws. Seatbelts save lives; there is no question about that. In fact, seatbelts have saved more than 250,000 lives in the U.S. since 1975, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Wearing a seatbelt can reduce the risk of dying in a car crash by 45 percent, and cut the risk of suffering a serious injury by 50 percent, the CDC reports.
What Happens If I Was Not Wearing a Seatbelt During a Car Accident?
Despite the clear safety advantages and laws that require buckling up, some motorists choose not to wear a seatbelt. Others inadvertently forget to put one on. Some passengers may incorrectly believe that buckling up is unnecessary when riding in the back seat or making short trips.
Whatever the reason, some victims of North Carolina car accidents are not properly belted at the time of a crash. The at-fault driver’s insurance company may discover this during an investigation of the crash. If so, the insurer may argue that the victim’s car accident injuries were more severe since he or she was not belted. The insurance adjuster may use this reasoning in an attempt to reduce the amount of money the company must pay. As a result, the insurer may contend that it should not have to pay for all of the unbelted victim’s injuries.
However, this is simply not the case. Liability for a car accident hinges on what a motorist negligently did – or did not do – to cause the crash. Whether an accident victim was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash plays no role in the cause. Therefore, the at-fault driver is liable for all damages, regardless of whether your injuries would have been less severe if you had been wearing a seat belt.
North Carolina forbids defendants from raising the so-called “seatbelt defense”. In fact, our state’s statutes exclude any evidence regarding seatbelt use. The applicable law, Section 20-135.2A(d), states that: “Evidence of failure to wear a seat belt shall not be admissible in any criminal or civil trial, action, or proceeding”.
In short, the at-fault driver’s insurance company must pay full compensation for all injuries. This is true even if you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. However, please note that if a driver or front seat passenger fails to wear the safety belt as required then he is subject to a fine of $25 plus court costs. This is a heavy fine to pay just to avoid the inconvenience of wearing a seat belt. A back seat passenger is subject to fine of $10 and no court costs. However, an officer may not stop a vehicle because a back seat passenger is not belted.
Hurt in a Crash While Not Wearing a Seatbelt? Our North Carolina Auto Accident Attorney Can Help
If you suffered serious injuries in a car crash that was someone else’s fault, you still deserve fair compensation. The insurance company should not limit your financial recovery just because you were not buckled up. If you are in this situation, you need a North Carolina auto accident lawyer who can stand up to the insurance companies and fight for your right to full compensation.
At Riddle & Brantley, LLP, our personal injury attorneys have more than 160 years of combined legal experience. We know that justice counts, and we have the dedication and commitment to fight for justice on behalf of car accident victims. Justice demands full compensation for the victim of another driver’s negligence – even if the victim was not wearing a seatbelt.
Our attorneys combine our skill in handling personal injury and wrongful death cases with the experience of our other representatives. These include retired North Carolina state troopers and other experts in accident reconstruction. Together, we work to build a strong and persuasive case. We know what a fair and just recovery is, and we use our extensive resources to help you obtain it.
For a free claim review and advice about your rights and options, call or fill out our online contact form. We have law offices in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Jacksonville and Kinston, which allows us to accept cases statewide.