No Seat Belts Mean No Insurance Benefits?
Most people know that North Carolina law requires all occupants in the front seat of a motor vehicle to wear seat belts and to be secured by seat belts that must be buckled.
The law requiring front seat occupants to wear their seat belts is intended to protect the public and is therefore a safety law.
In North Carolina the law of contributory negligence prevents a person injured by the negligence of another from recovering losses if the injured person themselves was negligent. Negligence is defined as the lack of due care.
A good argument could be made that someone who rides in the front seat of a passenger vehicle without buckling their seat belt is negligent. The argument is that due care would require a person to take every reasonable step necessary to protect their safety. Therefore, the failure to wear a seat belt would be negligence.
However, a quirk in North Carolina evidence law would prevent an insurance company from arguing and proving an injured person that was negligent if they did not wear a seat belt.
A specific statute in North Carolina provides that evidence of whether or not someone is wearing their seat belt is not admissible in any civil or criminal trial in North Carolina. Therefore, even if someone violates the law by failing to wear a seat belt while they are in the front seat of a car, that violation is not admissible in court. Therefore, there could be no evidence that someone did not wear their seat belt and therefore no argument that the failure to wear a seat belt was negligence.
The law is not always consistent!