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Scott McDonald and Associates PLLC

What if I wasn't wearing my seat belt and I was injured in a Washington car accident?

A recent mini-van accident near Snoqualmie Pass illustrates this point well.  Six people in a minivan were all ejected from the van when it rolled over. The passengers suffered very serious injuries and the driver died at the scene of this Washington roll over accident.

Under Washington law, RCW 46.61.688, seat belts are required to be worn in vehicles like cars, trucks and vans. If you were injured in a Washington car accident and suffer injuries due to another driver's negligence or carelessness causing the accident your failure to wear a seat belt does not mean you lose your injury claim.  In fact most times your failure to wear a seat belt is not admissible as evidence in the trial of your injury case.  

You still have a valid injury claim despite not wearing a seat belt and possibly suffering greater injury because of no seat belt.  However, as a passenger it was not your fault for causing the accident, so Washington law says the other driver does not get a free pass for his negligence even though technically you were not complying with the seat belt law.  The same principle is true for the driver of a vehicle when another car is at fault for causing the accident.

There are times when the facts of the accident will disclose that you weren't wearing a seat belt, like being ejected from a vehicle.  Most jurors will know that you weren't wearing your seat belt given that fact.  If a jury knows that they may reduce the amount they award in a jury verdict because you weren't wearing your seat belt.  However, what goes through a jurors mind and reasons they use to decide are secret and you may never really know if that was a factor or not.  For that reason it's important to make sure you follow all rules of the road or you may find your injury claim value will suffer as a result.

Plus, seat belts save lives.  The driver in the mini-van accident likely would have lived and the passengers would have suffered less severe injuries if everyone had been wearing their seat belts.

Buckle up, it may save your life!