How Does Not Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Your Car Accident Injury Claim?
Seatbelts can significantly reduce the risk of severe injury or fatality if you’re in a car accident. In Washington, drivers and passengers in motor vehicles are required by law to wear seatbelts. Failure to wear a seatbelt at the time of a collision could result in a traffic ticket, but it does not take away your right to claim damages for injuries you suffer. Nevertheless, it may affect the amount of damages you can recover.
Washington law specifically states that failure to wear a seatbelt does not constitute negligence. The law bars a defendant in a car accident case from using your lack of a seatbelt as evidence that you contributed to causing the accident. However, the defendant or their insurance company can still try to show that your injuries wouldn’t have been as extensive if you had been restrained by a seat belt.
It’s important to understand that Washington follows the comparative negligence rule. This means that if you’re partly to blame for the accident, your recovery in a personal injury suit will be reduced by your share of fault. Consequently, if you weren’t wearing a seatbelt and it had something to do with the seriousness of the accident or the severity of your injuries, your monetary recovery may be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault. For example, lack of a seatbelt could cause you to be thrust against the windshield or other object, causing a traumatic brain injury that would not have otherwise occurred. This could result in vastly greater medical and rehabilitative costs.
Fortunately, no matter what percentage of fault is found to be yours, you can still recover damages from the defendant for their share of fault. Recoverable damages may include:
- Medical expenses — You may be able to recover out-of-pocket costs for past and future medical care, surgeries, hospital treatment, and physical therapy.
- Property damage — You may be reimbursed for any damage to your vehicle and personal belongings due to the defendant’s negligence.
- Lost wages — If you lost time from work due to your injuries or accident-related medical treatment, you may be able to obtain compensation for loss of income.
- Loss of services — If you can’t perform the household tasks you usually would as a result of your injuries, you may be compensated for the costs you incurred in hiring someone to assist.
You may also be entitled to recover damages for the pain and suffering you endured due to your accident-related injuries.
If you weren’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident, you may still be entitled to recover for your injuries to the extent that another driver was at fault. The personal injury attorneys at Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. can help protect your legal rights and ensure you obtain the maximum compensation available. Call 253-272-5653 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Tacoma office.