The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2016, seat belt use increased nearly 2% from 2015. The results were cited from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey which also stated that seat belt use is higher in states where seat belt violations are a primary offense. Rhode Island is one of those states, and law enforcement can pull over drivers and ticket them for not using safety restraints, even if they committed no other offense.

But despite these statistics, many motorists still travel in vehicles without wearing seat belts, which makes the risk of serious injury or death much higher. If you weren’t wearing your seat belt when you were in a crash in Rhode Island, you may be able to receive compensation after a car accident, but you need to understand Rhode Island’s seat belt laws and what factors may affect the outcome of your case.

What Can Affect Your Recovery?

Rhode Island uses a pure comparative fault system when determining accident liability. This means, if you’re injured in a car accident, you can recover compensation even if you were negligent and partially responsible. A victim can recover even if he is 99 percent at fault; however, the recovery is reduced by the victim’s degree of fault.

Additionally, in a personal injury claim, Rhode Island does not accept what’s known as “the seat belt defense.” This means, the at-fault driver can’t claim your failure to wear a seat belt counts as negligence or contributed to your injuries. Consequently, your recovery award can’t be reduced because you violated the state’s safety belt laws.

However, other factors could reduce your recovery if the other side can show that you were partially responsible for the accident. These factors include:

  • What you were doing right before the crash
  • How fast you were going
  • Whether you were obeying all traffic laws


Christopher L. Russo
Helping Rhode Island personal injury victims for nearly three decades to get the compensation they deserve.