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What Happens If I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt in My Car Accident?
Posted in Car Accidents on November 6, 2021
If you are riding in a motor vehicle in Washington state, it is important to wear a seat belt. Although these safety devices cannot prevent all injuries or fatalities, seat belts can help significantly reduce the risk of serious damage during a collision. However, not everyone wears a seat belt at all times while riding in a car.
If you are injured in a car accident in Washington, you have the right to hold the at-fault driver accountable for your injuries through an insurance claim or lawsuit. If you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision, however, you could face barriers to recovering compensation.
Washington Fault Car Accident Laws
To understand how not wearing a seat belt could impact your claim, it is first important to know how the Washington car accident system works. Washington is a fault car insurance state, meaning that victims of car accidents can hold at-fault drivers accountable for their damages, like medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
After a car accident, you typically have three avenues to compensation.
- You can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance.
- You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver in Washington civil court.
- You can file a claim under your own insurance, as long as you have the appropriate coverage.
If you are injured in a car accident and you were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, you can still file a lawsuit or insurance claim against the driver responsible for the collision. However, if the insurance company or the at-fault driver’s attorney discovers that you were not wearing a seat belt, this information may be used against you during the claims process.
Failure to Wear a Seat Belt and the Insurance Process
When you file an insurance claim in Washington, a representative from the company will be assigned to your case. The representative will investigate the accident by reviewing evidence and speaking to all relevant parties. The representative will then determine whether you deserve a settlement and the amount of your award.
If the representative discovers that you were not wearing a seat belt, he or she may try to minimize your damages. The representative may claim that your injuries would not be as severe if you followed the state’s seat belt laws. The company may use this fact as justification to decrease your award.
Comparative Negligence in Washington Personal Injury Lawsuits
If you file a personal injury lawsuit, the at-fault party’s attorney may claim that your injuries would have been less severe if you had worn a seat belt. As a result, the attorney may successfully argue that the at-fault driver should not pay a high settlement.
In some cases, Washington’s comparative negligence laws may apply to your case. The court may assign each party a certain percentage of fault and will decrease your settlement by that amount. For example, if you ask for a $50,000 award and the court assigns 20% of the fault to you, you will only receive $40,000.
In these situations, it is important to have a Seattle car accident lawyer on your side who can defend you against accusations of liability and prove the at-fault driver’s negligence. Your personal injury lawyer can help gather the evidence you need to establish your right to maximum recovery. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to strategize your next steps.