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Does seat belt use matter for liability purposes?

In North Carolina, seat belt use is mandatory for all drivers and passengers over the age of 16 who are travelling in either the back or front seats. But that doesn't mean that everybody always wears his or her seat belt. 

If someone gets injured in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt, and the accident was technically the fault of the other driver, it might seem intuitive that the person not wearing the seat belt would be at least partially liable for injuries sustained as a result of the crash. But this is not the case in North Carolina. 

In North Carolina, courts are not allowed to consider whether or not a person was wearing a seat belt at the time of a crash. The specific language of the law reads: 

"Evidence of failure to wear a seat belt shall not be admissible in any criminal or civil trial, action, or proceeding except in an action based on a violation of this section or as justification for the stop of a vehicle or detention of a vehicle operator and passengers."

In other words, even though wearing a seat belt is law in North Carolina, a person cannot be legally penalized for the consequences of not wearing a seat belt in the event of a crash. 

The penalty for not wearing a seat belt in North Carolina is $25.50 plus assorted administrative costs. But the cost of not seeking legal help after a car accident in which you were not wearing a seat belt is likely to be much, much higher. 

 

 

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