Key Laws to Know about Car Accidents in Washington, D.C.

Car accidents occur every day in Washington, D.C. It is important to understand Washington, D.C. laws pertaining to car accidents and how they may impact your claims. A car accident lawyer can help you learn about the process, rules and legal guidelines involved in the process.

Statute of Limitations

The District of Columbia has a three-year statute of limitations to file a car accident claim. The clock starts ticking on the day of the car accident. Additionally, it is important for a car accident victim to contact the other driver’s insurance company in order to give notice or inform them when a claim is filed. If you hire a personal injury lawyer, he or she may provide written notice to the insurance company about the likelihood of a lawsuit. However, the lawsuit must actually be filed before the deadline expires, or it will be barred.

No Fault Insurance State

Washington, D.C. is a no-fault district, meaning that each person’s own insurance company covers their own
damages, regardless of fault. Personal injury protection is bought by each party and covers his or her own damages for medical expenses and lost wages. However, personal injury protection does not cover damages for pain and suffering. This type of insurance can help provide for the recovery necessary to move past the accident. Insurance companies and lawmakers like this system because it helps unclog the court system because there are fewer lawsuits and fewer claims for smaller auto accidents. No fault insurance is paid directly to you by your own insurance company for your medical expenses and lost wages.

Washington, D.C. provides a 60-day election period when the victim can elect to use their no-fault option or bring a claim against the at-fault driver. If they choose the no-fault option, they usually cannot submit a claim against the other driver down the line except for very specific exceptions. Washington, D.C. has two thresholds that must be met. The first is monetary. Your medical costs must exceed your insurance policy’s personal injury protection. The second is an injury threshold. You must sustain a significant impairment. This may occur when you suffer a permanent impairment, scarring or disability that lasts at least six months. When you meet both of these thresholds, you can file a claim against your own personal injury protection coverage and a claim against the at-fault party. However, you must make this decision and filing within 60 days from the date of your accident.

Contributory Negligence

Washington, D.C. recognizes a legal concept that most other jurisdictions have discarded called contributory negligence. Under this legal doctrine, if a personal injury victim contributed at all to the accident – even for one percent of it – he or she cannot collect any recovery for the damages.

Under this legal doctrine, the insurance company may try to say that you were at least partially at fault for the accident in order to deny your claim in the entirety. If you choose to pursue a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party, contributory negligence may also apply. If the judge or jury finds that you contributed in any manner to the accident, this contributory negligence will bar you from collecting any money from the insurance company.

This process works much different in other states. For example, some states will allow you to recover for the accident if you were 50 or 49 percent or less responsible for the accident. Others will allow you to recover even if you were primarily responsible for the accident. Also, some states will reduce your recovery by the portion of fault that you were responsible for, rather than eliminating any recovery at all.

Uninsured Motorists

The District of Columbia requires every registered driver to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as part of their insurance coverage. The minimum amount of coverage is $2500 per person or $50,000 per accident. This insurance protection provides coverage to an accident victim when the at-fault driver has no insurance or at all or has insufficient insurance coverage to cover your damages stemming from the car accident.

Seek Help from a District of Columbia Car Accident Lawyer

If you were injured in a car accident, you only have a limited amount of time to make a decision about how to proceed with a claim that may impact you for years to come. Contact a lawyer for assistance with your car accident claim to determine whether you should file a car accident claim with your own insurance company or the at-fault party’s insurance company

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

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