A teenaged driver appears to have been speeding before losing control of his vehicle on a curve and running off the side of Riverbend Road in Catawba County, North Carolina (NC), on the night of October 4, 2014. The car then rolled over, causing two passengers to get ejected and lose their lives. Two other teens riding in the car, identified by television station WSOC as a Mercedes Benz, suffered serious injuries, as did the driver.
One reason the wreck turned deadly seems to be the failure of the deceased teens to wear seatbelts. Inexperience, distraction and recklessness by the driver also likely played large roles.
North Carolina law requires all people of all ages to buckle up when in a moving vehicle. As Carolina personal injury and wrongful death attorneys, my colleagues and I strongly support such laws. Restraints save lives and prevent bad crashes from turning into deadly tragedies almost every minute of every day.
However, NC law also specifies that failing to wear a seatbelt "shall not be admissible in any criminal or civil trial, action." Knowing that is essential for the parents of the deceased victims should they find it necessary to go to court to collect on claims against the at-fault driver's automobile insurance policy. Insurers will try almost any tactic to avoid making adequate compensation, so their representatives may make a big, but legally unsupportable, argument out of the seatbelt use issue.
All legal matters aside, we send our deepest condolences out to the friends and families of the teens who got killed in Catawba County. We also wish the injured high schoolers full and rapid recoveries. If some good can come out of the accident, let's hope it is that more teen drivers and passengers take away the messages that they must act responsibly behind the wheel and always fasten their seatbelts.