There are many myths regarding the use of seat belts in South Carolina. Some people think that the back seat is safer than the front seat, so that you don’t need to wear a seat belt in the back seat, or that seat belts cause more harm than good.
However, science has proven that wearing a seat belt is the best way to protect yourself from injuries in a crash. Seat belts save lives because they are designed to provide safety and protection when used correctly. That’s why South Carolina requires drivers and passengers in a moving vehicle to wear seat belts. The law also applies to younger children, who should ride in car seats.
Still, some drivers and passengers get into crashes while not wearing seat belts. If you find yourself in such a situation, you may be wondering how not wearing a seat belt may impact your injury claim.
Consulting an experienced car accident lawyer in Greenville is the best way to protect your rights. In the meantime, here is everything you need to know about South Carolina seat belt laws.
What Seat Belt Laws are Enforceable in South Carolina?
South Carolina law requires drivers and passengers, regardless of their position or age, to wear a seat belt while in a moving vehicle. Drivers will be fined if any passengers under seventeen years are found unbelted. This doesn’t apply to any passengers under 17 years that have a driver’s license or beginner’s permit, as those passengers will be ticketed separately for their violations.
Until 2005, South Carolina law only allowed officers to ticket motorists for seat belt violations pulled over for another violation. The revised regulation allows law enforcement officers to stop motorists if they see a driver or passenger without a seat belt or a child not secured in a car seat.
South Carolina’s seat belt law doesn’t apply to the following:
- People with a physician’s certificate validating a medical reason for not wearing a seat belt
- Medical or rescue personnel attending to patients in an emergency vehicle
- Passengers of vehicles in parades
- A passenger for whom a seat belt isn’t available because the vehicle doesn’t have enough of them
- Public transportation vehicles, except for taxis
- United States mail carriers
- A driver or passengers in a vehicle not originally equipped with seat belts
What Are the Consequences of Not Wearing a Seat Belt in South Carolina?
Failing to wear a seat belt could cost you $25 in fines if it’s your first offense. Committing a subsequent violation will attract up to $50 in fines, without court costs. South Carolina takes child safety very seriously, which is why violating the child seat belt law attracts a higher penalty of $150.
Seat belt violations aren’t considered criminal charges, and don’t result in points on your driver’s license, or affect insurance premiums. However, having too many violations may have consequences. Your insurance company may take it as a sign that you are a risky driver or use it as a basis to minimize your claim.
Can I Still File a Claim I Was Hurt in a Crash But Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?
According to South Carolina law, a failure to wear a seat belt is not admissible as evidence in a civil lawsuit. Failing to wear a seat belt doesn’t prohibit you from filing a lawsuit against the negligent party. Therefore, you can file a lawsuit if the negligent driver’s insurance carrier denied your claim or offered too little money as a settlement.
Some states consider failure to wear a seat belt as grounds for comparative negligence, which can bar you from claiming damages or reducing your settlement. However, South Carolina is not one of those states. Failing to wear a seat belt cannot constitute evidence of comparative negligence.
How Can I Protect My Claim?
If you’re injured while driving without a seat belt in Greenville, SC, there are several things you can do to protect and strengthen your claim. Take the following steps if you’re physically capable:
- Move to a safe area and call 911 to report the accident
- Take photos of the accident scene and the vehicles involved
- Get the contact information of any witness to the crash
- Exchange contact information with the other driver
- Avoid discussing the accident with anyone or admitting fault
- Seek medical attention right away, even if you don’t appear to have injuries
- Notify your insurance company
- Consult an accident lawyer
Have You Been Injured in a Greenville, SC, Area Car Accident?
You may be able to recover compensation from the at-fault driver if you’ve been injured in an accident, regardless of whether or not you were wearing a seat belt. Contact David R. Price, Jr., P.A. today to discuss your case.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.