In Washington DC, the current state of the law prevents any accident victim from recovering for his or her injuries if he or she is found to be at all at fault for the accident resulting in his or her injuries. This means that even if an accident victim is found to be just 1% at fault, the law in Washington DC would prevent him or her from recovering from a defendant who was 99% at fault. This is the law of contributory negligence.
However, according to a recent article by the Washington Post, there is a new bill pending in the legislature that would shift the current contributory-negligence scheme to a comparative-fault system. As of right now, Washington DC is one of only a handful of jurisdictions that uses a comparative-fault system. Most other states have moved away from the strict system in recent years.
Under comparative fault, an accident victim’s damages get reduced by the percent that he or she is found to be at fault for the accident. For example, if an accident victim is found to be 5% at fault, and the jury determines that the damages should be $1,000,000, the plaintiff’s total damages would be reduced by 5%, or $50,000. That would leave the plaintiff with a total recovery amount of $950,000 under a comparative-fault system. Under a contributory-negligence system, however, the plaintiff would recover nothing.