In the state of Washington, it is against the law to not wear a seatbelt when operating a vehicle. However, it is not uncommon for individuals to be in a rush or forget to put on their seatbelt and an accident occurs. This may lead you to wonder whether you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the individual who hit you if you were not wearing a seatbelt.
Telaré Law is knowledgeable and up to date on the laws surrounding seatbelts, and we will do our best to answer your question in this article. Our Kennewick car accident attorneys are ready to assist you with your case.
Can you sue after a car accident if you were not buckled up?
If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault and were not buckled up, you can still file an injury lawsuit in Washington State. The reason why is because failing to wear your seatbelt was not the cause of the car crash. Instead, the crash may have occurred because of the other driver’s speed, failure to obey a stop sign, driving while intoxicated, etc. Therefore, the responsible party should be held accountable for their actions regardless if you were wearing a seatbelt or not.
Your lawyer will look at all the circumstances surrounding the case and help you prepare answers for these types of questions. In general, you could be entitled to compensation as long as:
- There was indeed a car accident.
- The person you have filed a lawsuit against is responsible for the car accident.
- You experienced injuries because of the car accident.
- Wearing a seatbelt would not have prevented any of your injuries.
Can the defendant argue that not wearing a seatbelt affected the extent of your injuries?
If you were not wearing a seatbelt, keep in mind that the defendant and their attorneys will most likely bring up this fact during the trial or settlement negotiation process. They will make the argument that you would not have been injured or that your injuries would have been less severe if you were buckled up in the vehicle.
However, our attorneys at Telaré Law have a lot of experience with these cases. Therefore, we know that we can use an expert witness physician to explain and provide evidence of your injuries, as well as the pain and suffering you have suffered from the accident. Some of the evidence that will be needed to prove your case are police reports, witness statements, medical records, photos, and video footage. (A witness or police officer will usually testify about the accident.) Our personal injury lawyers will ask that the defendant’s attorneys provide the proper evidence showing that your injuries would have been prevented or less severe if you were wearing a seatbelt.
How will your car accident case be decided?
If your case goes to trial, the jury will decide who is more at fault between the person who was injured and the driver who caused the accident. They will look at the injuries suffered as well as all the evidence provided. It is very possible that the jury may place some of the fault on you even if you did not entirely cause the accident.
If this is the case, any damages awarded to you will be deducted by the percentage of fault the jury places on you. This is because Washington follows the concept of comparative negligence.
What damages am I entitled to in a car accident claim?
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident due to another driver’s actions, you may be entitled to compensation. Depending on the cooperation of the defendant, this compensation may be decided through a settlement negotiation or personal injury court hearing. The following are the common types of compensation that our clients usually recover in these cases:
- Medical bills coverage
- Property damage and losses
- Quality of life coverage
- Physical therapy or rehabilitation coverage
- Pain and suffering
- Prescriptions and medical devices
- Lost income if unable to work
Unfortunately, we cannot give an accurate amount of compensation that you will receive because every case is unique and has its own factors. However, you can consult with our Washington personal injury attorneys to look at the facts of your case to give you an estimate of the amount you may receive.
Remember to always wear your seatbelt going forward
Even though wearing a seatbelt does not impact your motor vehicle accident claim, you should still consider always wearing one going forward. The main reason a seatbelt is recommended is for your safety.
According to the National Safety Council, seat belts reduce the risk of front seat passenger deaths by 45 percent. When you choose to not wear a seatbelt and experience a crash, you could be thrown from your vehicle or experience whiplash, broken bones, internal bleeding, concussions, and more.
If you have recently been injured in a car accident, please get in touch with Telaré Law today. We are based in Richland and Kennewick and will do everything in our power to stand up for your rights. Regardless of whether you were wearing a seatbelt, our team of personal injury lawyers will work to ensure your side of the story is heard and that you are awarded the proper amount of compensation that you deserve. Call our office, or submit our contact form at your earliest convenience, and we will reach out to you soon.