It is generally undisputed that seat belts prevent injuries and save lives. In fact, mountains of crash test results and real-world accident statistics demonstrate that a properly worn seat belt restraint system is the single most effective source of safety for automobile occupants. Automobile manufacturers are required by federal law to install seat belts in passenger cars, and forty-nine states have enacted mandatory seat belt use laws. Despite all this focus on the importance of seat belt use, many states still have various forms of evidentiary rules that prohibit defendants from telling a jury that a plaintiff disregarded available safety features and violated mandatory seat belt laws by not wearing a seat belt.
However, the legislatures and courts in an increasing number of states have begun to apply the so-called “seat belt defense” in view of the acknowledged effectiveness of seat belts. Under the seat belt defense, a plaintiff’s recovery for personal injury could be reduced completely, or in part by his/her failure to use a seat belt.
Seat Belt Laws in Washington State
Washington State has primary enforcement laws regarding seat belt use. This means motorists can be stopped and ticketed exclusively because they were not using their seat belt. Studies have shown that states with primary enforcement laws generally have seat belt usage rates 10 to 15 percent higher than secondary laws, and subsequently have lower injury and death rates.
However, currently, Washington State has no seat belt defense in place. In regards to mandatory seat belt use, the Revised Code of Washington 46.61.688(6) states that “failure to comply with the requirements of this section does not constitute negligence, nor may failure to wear a safety belt assembly be admissible as evidence of negligence in any civil action.”
Yet that won’t prevent an insurance adjuster from trying to use this tactic to reduce your settlement or deny your claim. Insurance companies will use any tactic they can to avoid paying top dollar in an injury lawsuit. As such, you need an experienced car accident attorney on your side from the moment you are injured. Your attorney will be able to fight for your rights to compensation and prevent insurance companies from using devious or deceptive tactics to reduce your claim.
If you have been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to call an attorney, such as those Phillips Law Firm, to ensure that you get the justice and compensation that you deserve.