Can I Still Sue in Washington if I Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

August 3, 2016

Established in 1948, CCD Law has recovered millions in compensation for our clients in and around Spokane. If you have been injured in a car accident, call us today for a free and confidential consultation.

In some states, if you’re the victim in an automobile accident and you were not wearing a seat belt, you could be barred from seeking compensation for your injuries. However, in Washington, if a case doesn’t settle, the issue may be left to a jury to determine any percentage of comparative negligence that might be attributable to the unbelted driver or passenger.

Comparative negligence?

Most states have adopted the law of comparative negligence in one form or another. With the law of comparative negligence, any percentage of negligence determined to be attributable to the person claiming injury is deducted from his or her gross award of damages. For example, if a jury returns with an award $80,000, but the claimant was determined to be 25 percent at fault for the accident, his or her award will be reduced to $60,000.

Comparative negligence in Washington

Washington is in that handful of states that are known as pure comparative negligence states. In most states, if a person seeking compensation for injuries is determined to be 50 or 51 percent at fault for his or her own injuries, he or she will be barred from any compensation.

With the law of pure comparative negligence as adopted by Washington, that same injured person can still recover damages even if he or she was 80 or 90 percent at fault for his or her own injuries.

Was the failure to wear a seat belt a cause of the claimant’s injuries?

What caused the injuries? If you were hit in the driver’s side door and your left ribs are cracked, the impact would likely be the proximate cause of left side rib fractures regardless of whether the driver was belted or not. It might even be the proximate cause of a right neck injury. Would it be the cause right rib fractures? What if more than two vehicles were involved in the crash?

Speak to an accident attorney

Insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible. If you were not wearing a seat belt they may attempt to use this against you. If you sustained injuries in a car accident in or around Spokane or another part of Washington please feel free to contact us today.

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