Five pickup truck passengers suffered serious injuries when their vehicle slid over an embankment and into the Jackson River in Alleghany County, Virginia (VA). In all, seven of the eight people in the truck required medical treatment following the wreck on Route 687 near the community of Falling Spring on the afternoon of June 12, 2016. The individuals most badly hurt were flown by helicopter to a hospital in Roanoke.
Several of the passengers were riding in the truck bed at the time of the accident. This is legal in Virginia for people older than 16. Police did not release the precise ages of all the crash victims, but reports indicate that the people in the back of the pickup were all between 18 and 21 years old.
Virginia has complicated seat belt laws, and insurance companies sometimes try to exploit that complexity when presented with personal injury claims following car crashes. Insurers argue that failure to buckle up constitutes contributory negligence of the kind that invalidates claims for medical costs and other damages. Any Virginia personal injury lawyer knows, however, that state laws stipulate that pickup bed passengers who are old enough to drive have no legal requirement to use restraints while doing so. Beyond that, the Virginia Code makes clear that failure to use a seatbelt inside a car or truck does not invalidate claims for compensation following a crash.
You can read more about seatbelts, riding in pickup truck beds and insurance liability here. The short version is that drivers' responsibilities to protect their passengers is not relieved by passengers' choice to ride unbuckled.