When someone was injured in a car accident, especially one caused by another driver, they have the right to claim damages from the liable party. But what happens if the injured person wasn’t wearing a seat belt? The answer may surprise you. Here’s what you need to know.

What Does Washington State Law Say About Seat Belts?

Washington state law says everyone age 16 and older must wear a seat belt while riding in a vehicle. It also states that no one is allowed to operate a vehicle in which anyone under 16 isn’t correctly wearing a seat belt or isn’t secured in an approved car seat or booster. The only exceptions to this are for people who have written verification from their physician that they cannot wear seat belts for medical or health reasons. If someone doesn’t fall into any of those exceptions, being pulled over for not wearing a seat belt could cause them to be fined up to $124.

However, Washington state law also says it’s not legally considered negligent if someone doesn’t wear a seat belt and is injured in a car accident. That means that when the injured person makes a claim against or sues someone responsible for the accident, the liable party can’t accuse the injured party of being negligent and contributing to their own injuries. If the liable party tries to say you’ll lose your right to claims because of not wearing a seat belt, have them talk to your attorney.

What Should I Do if I Was in a Car Accident but Wasn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

The first thing to do is see a doctor. You may feel fine, but there are many injuries, including serious ones, that don’t exhibit symptoms right away. Waiting for symptoms to appear could make a recovery more complicated and time-consuming. If another driver was involved in the accident and is likely at fault, getting a diagnosis sooner than later makes it easier to tie the injury to the accident. Otherwise, their attorney or insurance representative may try to claim the injury was from some other event since you didn’t see a doctor right after the accident.

Then call us at 509-638-1414 to request a free consultation. We can walk you through your case and advise you as to what to expect. We represent you, not the other driver, and will strive to ensure you receive the best outcomes possible.

If another driver was involved in the accident and is partially or fully at fault for causing it, don’t speak with their insurance representative or attorney. Anything you say to them could be held against you. Their job is to reduce the amount of damages that will have to be paid out to you, and they could use leading questions to entice you into taking more responsibility for the accident than you should. Don’t sign anything or answer questions; only refer them to your attorney.