The personal injury laws in Washington D.C. can be difficult to understand, especially following a traumatic event. Victims and their families can easily become confused about what to do to receive financial compensation from the negligent party, be it a person or a company.
Like most jurisdictions in the country, the District of Columbia has set a time limit or deadline called the statute of limitations. In D.C. a victim and/or their family must file a personal injury claim within three years of the accident or the victim and/or their family will almost surely lose their ability to seek compensation.
Shared Fault Rules
The District of Columbia follows what is known as a “contributory fault rule”, which means that if a victim of an injury is partly responsible for an accident, that victim can lose their ability to sue for damages. For instance, a driver is speeding a couple of miles over the posted speed limit when another driver pulls out of a retail shopping center without looking and the speeding driver suffers an injury. If it’s determined the speeding driver contributed to the accident by breaking the posted speed limit, he or she would be unlikely and unable to collect damages from the other driver or the other driver’s insurance company.
Auto Insurance Laws
D.C. has a “no-fault” insurance law which means drivers injured in an auto collision have to seek compensation from their own insurer. However, there are instances when an injured driver or his or her family can file a claim against another driver if one of these exceptions applies to the case:
- the victim suffers substantial, permanent disfigurement or scarring
- the victim suffers substantial and medically demonstrable impairment in performing daily activities
- the victim medically demonstrable impairment that prevents the injured person from performing daily activities for at least 180 days
- the victim has medical bills that exceed the limits of all applicable no-fault insurance policies.
Though these exceptions exist, it is imperative to have experienced and aggressive legal representation to recover the maximum amount of damages. Without the right attorney, a victim or family member of a personal injury claim, a case could be hurt or even lost.
Animal Owner Liability
In many jurisdictions around the country, an animal owner is protected under the law from being responsible for injuries arising from a bite or attack if the owner had no reason to believe the animal was a threat or danger to a person or another animal. This is often referred to as the “one bit rule”, which states that an animal owner is generally not liable for the first time a pet bites a person or another animal. However, the District of Columbia follows what is known as “strict liability” for such cases and under D.C. Code Ann. Section 8-1812, an animal owner is responsible for the actions of their pet regardless of that pet’s past behavior.
Claims against the Government
Although a victim and/or their family has three years to file a personal injury claim against another person or company, the District of Columbia limits the time to file such as claim against the government to only six months. If a government employee or government owned equipment causes a person injury, the victim has to file a claim in six months or will almost surely lose their right to recover damages.