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How Not Wearing a Seatbelt Can Affect Your Motor Vehicle Injury Claim

How Not Wearing a Seatbelt Can Affect Your Motor Vehicle Injury Claim


  • Seatbelts are legally enforced in NSW.
  • Failure to buckle up can impact the outcome of your compensation claim, but does not necessarily mean you cannot claim at all!
  • Courts assess compensation for injuries sustained in Motor Vehicle Accidents based on the level of contribution not wearing a seat belt had on your injuries.


This blog post seeks to highlight the importance of seatbelt use and its influence on personal injury claims following a motor vehicle accident.

The Law and Seatbelts

It has been compulsory to wear seatbelts in NSW since 1971. Each year, approximately 30 people are killed, and 90 people are injured on NSW roads because they are not wearing a seatbelt. The Road Rules 2014 (‘The Act”) provide the provisions pertaining to the wearing of seatbelts by Drivers (s264 of the Act), Passengers 16 years old or older (s265 of the Act), and Passengers under 16 years old (s266 of the Act). These provisions provide that the driver of a vehicle, and all passengers, must be securely fastened to their seat by an approved and fitted seatbelt.

According to research wearing a seatbelt doubles the chance of surviving a crash and reduces the risk of injury by:-

  • Allowing you to decelerate at the same rate as the vehicle in a crash.
  • Spreading the force of the impact over the stronger parts of your body (pelvis and chest area).
  • Preventing you from colliding with the interior parts of the vehicle.
  • Reduces your risk of being thrown out of the vehicle.
  • Slowing the speed of your body moving forwards, so you impact safely with the airbags.

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Legal Implications in Personal Injury Claims

Not wearing a seatbelt while driving, or passenger of, a vehicle that is involved in a motor vehicle accident means that the injuries you sustained are more serious than they could have been had you worn your seatbelt. This means that you may be found partly at fault for causing your injuries,, this is commonly known as contributorily negligent. The concept of contributory negligence under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) is satisfied when there is a failure by a person to take reasonable care for his or her own safety, which contributes to the harm the person suffered. Section 4.17(c) of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) provides that a failure to wear a seatbelt satisfies a finding of contributory negligence.

If this is the case, you may still have a claim for compensation for the injuries sustained in the accident in accordance with the Motor Vehicle Injuries Act 2017, however, the compensation you are awarded may be less than if you were not partly at fault for your injuries.

The amount of compensation payable may be reduced for contributorily negligent drivers who fail to wear a seatbelt or ensure their passengers are wearing a seatbelt. An award for damages (the compensation paid for your loss) at the end of your claim may be apportioned in accordance with the deemed level of contributory negligence.

Section 4.21 of the Motor Accident Act 2017 (NSW) provides that if the court orders that damages be paid for injuries, but you were not wearing a seatbelt and were subsequently found contributorily negligent for your injuries, the court must declare what portion of the sum awarded by the judgement is in respect of the injuries.

Case Studies: Seatbelt Use and Court Outcomes

In the 2014 case of Allen v Chadwick, the Plaintiff (Ms Chadwick, 21 years of age) was the passenger of a vehicle driven by an intoxicated driver (Mr Allen). Ms Chadwick sustained severe spinal injuries when she was thrown from the back seat of the car, subsequently deeming her paraplegic. It was understood that Ms Chadwick failed to fasten her seatbelt.

It was determined that Ms Chadwick’s failure to engage her seatbelt deemed her 25% contributorily negligent for her injuries. Her damages were apportioned at 75% of the total amount payable.

Responsibility and Shared Fault

As seen in Allen v Chadwick, if you are found partially at fault for not wearing a seatbelt, you may still pursue a claim against the other driver, however your compensation will be reduced at the discretion of the courts.


Wearing a seatbelt is crucial for your safety and can impact your personal injury claim. Always buckle up, whether you’re driving or riding as a passenger. If you’re involved in an accident and have questions about your rights or compensation, Coutts Lawyers and Conveyancers have a dedicated team of Personal Injury lawyers who can help you navigate a Motor Vehicle claim and ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to. Stay safe, and remember, seatbelts save lives.

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Karena Nicholls - Compensation Lawyers Parramatta

Karena is a Partner at Coutts and is the Head of our Injury Compensation (with extensive knowledge in personal injury) and Employment Law teams. She is passionate and dedicated to helping her clients understand their rights and obligations and advising them on the best course of action to achieve their desired outcomes. It is her practical and client-orientated approach that has attributed to her authentic reputation positioning her as a highly regarded compensation and employment lawyer.

For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:

Karena Nicholls
1300 268 887


Taylah joined the Coutts team in March 2024 as a Paralegal in our Personal Injury & Employment Law teams, from our Narellan office.

Taylah is in her final year of University and is studying a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Canberra.

For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:

Taylah Denford
1300 268 887

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This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.

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