We know that seat belts help save lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent among drivers and front-seat passengers.
What many people don’t realize is that, beyond the safety benefits of wearing a seatbelt, safety restraint use can also impact accident claims. For drivers and passengers involved in accidents, the question of whether they were wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision can have significant repercussions.
If you were not wearing your seatbelt in a crash, you may face challenges recovering compensation, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
The car accident lawyers in North and South Carolina at Stewart Law Offices want to help you understand how the lack of a seatbelt can affect your car accident claim. You can also contact us to discuss your claim during a free and confidential consultation.
Repercussions of No Seatbelt in a Car Accident
First and foremost, one of the most significant repercussions of not wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident is the severity of a victim’s injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that of the 22,215 people killed in car accidents in a recent year, 47 percent were not wearing seatbelts.
Those who survive a serious crash while not wearing a seatbelt tend to suffer much more severe injuries. Occupants who fail to wear a safety restraint can be thrown throughout the vehicle and, in some cases, be ejected from the vehicle entirely. Injuries may include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Facial injuries
- Dental injuries
- Broken bones
- Road rash
Not wearing a seatbelt may also affect whether you can pursue compensation against the at-fault driver and how much compensation you might be able to recover, based on contributory negligence and comparative fault rules.
Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault in North and South Carolina
“Contributory negligence” and “comparative fault” are terms that dictate how a personal injury claim will be affected if an accident victim acted in a negligent way that contributed to the accident. While they are both tort liability states (accident victims file a claim against the at-fault driver for compensation for their injuries instead of filing a claim with their own insurance company), South Carolina and North Carolina have very different rules for personal injury lawsuits.
North Carolina is one of a handful of remaining contributory negligence states. In a contributory negligence system, if a victim is found to be even slightly to blame for the circumstances of a car accident, they are barred from receiving any compensation. In North Carolina, the contributory negligence rule can make it extremely difficult to recover compensation if a victim was not wearing a seatbelt. Insurers or defendants can argue that the failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to the seriousness of the victim’s injuries and that they should have mitigated the risk by wearing a seatbelt. This could be enough to bar a person from receiving money for their injury-related losses.
South Carolina follows a modified comparative negligence rule. In modified comparative negligence states, a victim’s share of compensation may be reduced by the percentage of responsibility they bear for causing the accident. This is true as long as the victim’s liability is not greater than that of any of the other parties involved in the collision. Therefore, even if they contributed to the accident, they can still pursue a personal injury claim as long as the other party was more negligent. So, if a victim is 10 percent responsible for causing an accident in South Carolina, the courts can reduce that victim’s share of compensation by 10 percent. If the victim is more than 50 percent responsible, they would not be able to recover compensation.
Because these legal issues are complex, consider contacting a knowledgeable car accident attorney to learn how these rules may affect your claim.
Contact Stewart Law Offices Today to Learn More
Not wearing a seatbelt at the time of an accident generally does not automatically exclude you from being able to receive compensation. However, it can make your claim significantly more challenging.
If you have been in an accident and weren’t wearing a seatbelt, contact the legal team at Stewart Law Offices today. We can review your case and help you sort through your legal options. Don’t give up on the compensation you may deserve. Set up a free consultation today.