Wash. Rev. Code § 46.61.030 provides: unless specifically made applicable, the provisions of this chapter except those contained in Wash. Rev. Code §§ 46.61.500 - 46.61.520 shall not apply to persons, teams, motor vehicles and other equipment while actually engaged in work upon the surface of a highway but shall apply to such persons and vehicles when traveling to or from such work.
Plaintiff injured driver was not wearing his seat belt when he collided with a dump truck driven by the construction company's employee. The dump truck was attempting to make a left turn from the right side of the road when the injured driver's car impacted with the truck. The trial court's jury instructions advised the jury of the rules of the road that the dump truck driver was required to follow, and the trial court ruled on the injured driver's motion in limine that the construction company was prohibited from making any reference to the injured driver's failure to wear a seat belt. The court affirmed the trial court's judgment.
Did the trial court err in refusing admission of evidence on the "seat belt defense"?
The rules of the road applied to the dump truck driver because Wash. Rev. Code § 46.61.030 did not exempt the dump truck driver from the rules of the road when he was driving to and from a highway construction site. Therefore, the jury instructions were proper. Additionally, the court found that the trial court properly rejected the "seat belt defense" because it was extremely unfair to mitigate the injured driver's damages in an accident for which he was in no way responsible, particularly when there was no statutory duty to wear seat belts.