Most likely no. Not wearing a seat belt should not affect your injury claim, even though it will likely lead to more severe injuries. Learn more here.
Do I have to wear a seat belt in Washington State?
Yes. In Washington State, the law requires everyone to wear a seat belt. Passengers under 16 must either wear a seat belt or be secured in a child restraint device.
If you are not wearing a seat belt at the time of your accident in Washington State, you have broken the law. In addition to breaking the law, you have likely contributed to your injuries. In many cases, this would be enough to prove comparative negligence.
What is comparative negligence?
Comparative negligence is a way of apportioning money damages based upon the fault of the people who were in the accident. If, for example, the other driver ran a red light and caused the accident, s/he will take the blame. However, if you were speeding or texting at the time of the collision, you might take some of the blame.
In this case, the insurer might assign the other driver 90 percent and you 10 percent. This means you can only recover 90 percent of your settlement (e.g., $90,000 if you asked for $100,000).
Also, depending on the state, you might have to be less at fault than the other driver to recover damages. However, because Washington State follows a contributory fault rule, drivers can be 99 percent at fault and still recover damages. However, as we mentioned above, your proportion of fault will decrease your settlement amount.
So, if not wearing a seat belt is against the law, why does it not affect my claim?
In many states, contributing to the accident or to your injuries will decrease your settlement or bar you from recovering anything. In Washington, however, the law is a little different.
Although the law requires everyone in a moving vehicle to wear a seat belt, the law specifically prohibits using the failure to do so as proof of negligence.
RCW § 46.61.688(6) states, “Failure to comply with the requirements of this section does not constitute negligence, nor may failure to wear a safety belt assembly be admissible as evidence of negligence in any civil action.”
While this prohibits insurers from using it as negligence, you can be sure that the other party’s insurer will do whatever it can to reduce your settlement. For this reason, you need an attorney with experience defending accident victims against insurance companies.
Where can I get help with my claim?
First, we want to note that you should always wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a car. However, if you were not wearing your seat belt at the time of your accident, you are still entitled to compensation. Contact Max Meyers Law PLLC today to schedule a consultation and see how we can help you win your case.
Call us today at 425-399-7000.