Washington, D.C. car accidents can happen anywhere, even when someone least expects it. One of the things that makes these accidents so upsetting and difficult for Washington, D.C. residents is the fact that they often seem to come out of nowhere, and yet their impacts can be felt for weeks, months, or even years. In some cases, the accidents can even be fatal, leaving families to mourn the loss of their loved one indefinitely.

For example, just last month a woman was tragically killed as she was walking. According to a news report, a driver was backing out of a driveway and hit the woman, who was tragically pronounced dead at the scene. The accident is still being investigated, and not much is known about it at this time.

This accident is just one example of the many accidents that happen every day in the blink of an eye but have serious and significant long-term effects. Often, Washington, D.C. accidents like this are just that—accidents. Usually, there is no ill intent, no intentional wrongdoing, and no one who wanted to cause harm to someone else. Even so, however, real harm occurs, and someone may still be legally at fault and liable for what occurred. Washington, D.C. law recognizes this, and has a system of law specifically for accident victims to recover against those who caused them harm, even without intent. Through a civil negligence lawsuit, individuals can file suit against someone whose negligence caused a Washington, D.C. accident, seeking to recover monetary damages. These damages can include lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, and funeral and burial expenses.

If an individual has been injured in a Washington, D.C. accident by an employee, in addition to other claims, the individual may be able to file a claim against the at-fault party’s employer for negligent hiring or retention. Under Washington, D.C. law, to establish a claim for negligent hiring or retention, a plaintiff must show that the employer negligently hired or retained an individual who committed a wrongful act by placing the individual in an employment situation that poses an unreasonable risk of harm to others. An employer may also be liable for negligently retaining an independent contractor.

These claims are based on the negligence of the employer, rather than on vicarious liability. Generally, an employer has an obligation to its customers to reasonably inquire into an employee’s past record and employment if, for example, an employee will have un-monitored access to customers’ homes in the course of the employment. An employer may also be liable for negligently entrusting an employee to use a vehicle or other property if the employer knew or should have known that the employee might use the property in a way that would involve an unreasonable risk of harm.

A recent case before a federal appeals court recently considered a negligent hiring claim in a personal injury case involving an independent contractor. In that case, Harrah’s New Orleans Casino had hired a wildlife removal company as an independent contractor to remove birds from palm trees near the casino. The plaintiff was standing in front of the casino when the contractor accidentally struck the plaintiff, causing her injuries in her leg and ankle.

In Washington, D.C., when someone is injured in an accident that occurs on another’s property, they usually have the option of bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner to recover under a theory of premises liability. Generally, premises liability allows people to be held liable when they are negligent in regard to the safety of their property and yet invite or allow others onto it. Usually, premises liability cases involve wet floors causing a slip and fall accident, cracks in sidewalks that cause someone to trip, or other similar issues. But it is important to remember that any accident—no matter how strange or unique—can potentially serve as the basis for a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuit against a property owner.

For example, take a recent odd and tragic accident that killed a 26-year-old man and made national headlines. According to a New York Times article, the accident occurred in early February at a baby shower. A small cannon-type device, designed to create a big flash, a loud noise, and create smoke, exploded in the hosts’ backyard at the event around 7:30 PM. The victim, a guest at the party, was about 10 to 15 feet away when it blew up and was hit by metal shrapnel from the explosion. He was taken to the hospital immediately, but, unfortunately, he died from his injuries.

The investigation into the accident is ongoing. Officials are focusing their attention on whether the device was used properly or malfunctioned. The homeowner bought the cannon at an auction and had fired it several times beforehand. But officials are concerned that perhaps there was a malfunction—the combination of gunpowder and no regular inspections means that owners of devices such as this one may not notice hairline fractures. Or, perhaps even more likely, it’s possible the homeowner packed too much gunpowder into the cannon, causing the explosion.

A recent congressional report revealed that many baby foods sold in the Washington, D.C. area contain high levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, and cadmium. As one news source reported, investigators raised concern over the levels which surpassed levels allowed in products like bottled water. The report highlights the U.S. government’s lenient approach to oversight of the safety of baby food.

Exposure to heavy metals has been linked to behavioral impairments, brain damage, and death. Four companies, Nurture, Inc. (which sells HappyBABY), Beech-Nut, Gerber, and Hain Celestial Group (which sells Earth’s Best), provided information about their testing policies and results. Three other companies, Walmart (which sells Parent’s Choice brand), Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell Soup Company (which makes Plum Organics brand), did not provide information regarding testing policies and results. Lawmakers raised concerns over the potentially higher levels contained in the products that did not provide the requested information.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not set limits on heavy metal limits for baby foods, apart from arsenic levels in rice cereal. The levels of inorganic arsenic from two companies that tested such levels exceeded the levels set for infant rice cereal. Although heavy metals occur naturally in some vegetables in grains, the amounts may increase if manufacturers add other ingredients to the food, such as vitamin and mineral mixes.

Knowing the applicable filing deadlines is essential in a Washington, D.C. personal injury lawsuit. Failure to abide by the deadlines will often result in a dismissal of one’s case, and in some circumstances, the case cannot be refiled. The statute of limitations refers to the deadline for filing certain types of claims after a cause of action accrues. In general, there is a three-year statute of limitations for Washington, D.C. personal injury cases and a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. The deadline may be able to be tolled, or extended, in some circumstances.

A statute of repose is similar to the statute of limitations but is more strictly construed. It puts a fixed deadline on filing for certain claims. Some states have statutes of repose for personal injury claims—Washington, D.C. does not have a general statute of repose for such claims, though it does have statutes of repose for certain claims. For example, the District of Columbia has a statute of repose of ten years for damages to real property based on the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property.

A recent case demonstrates how statutes of repose and statutes of limitations can be applied and why they must be adhered to. In 2003, the plaintiff underwent surgery during which a TVT transvaginal mesh sling device was implanted. She later began experiencing pain, urinary issues, and scarring. Her doctor told her that the mesh had eroded and had a procedure to remove the implant in 2006. That same year, she had a similar mesh sling implanted, which was later eroded and removed in 2011. She claimed that she learned of the injury in July 2012 after a physician said that the mesh was the likely cause of her injuries.

Many people rely on public transportation to get around Washington, D.C., from getting to and from work, to visiting friends, stores, or museums. Public transportation is a great alternative to driving personal vehicles, as it is better for the environment and often more cost-effective. It can also help to reduce traffic, a common problem around the busy areas of Washington, D.C. While there are many benefits to riding public transportation, it is important to remember that Washington D.C. accidents can still happen when riding the bus or the subway. Like any form of transportation, there are always some risks involved, and accidents may occur, causing injuries or even death.

For example, just last week, there was an accident in Washington, D.C., involving a Metrobus and a car. According to a local news report covering the incident, the head-on collision occurred around midnight one night near Minnesota Avenue Northeast and Benning Road Northeast. A preliminary investigation revealed that the bus and the car, a Nissan Altima, were traveling in the opposite direction on Benning Road Northeast when the bus began making a left turn onto Minnesota Avenue Northeast. The Nissan Altima is reported to have swerved into the left lane and struck the bus head-on. The driver of the Nissan, a 24-year-old man, was taken to a local hospital where he later died. Two passengers in the Nissan were also taken to the hospital, but with non-life-threatening injuries. Officers who responded to the scene also reported that seven of the bus’s passengers were injured, although they were also non-life-threatening injuries. It is unclear what caused the Nissan to swerve, and the accident remains under investigation.

After accidents like these, Washington, D.C. residents may be able to recover through a personal injury lawsuit. But potential plaintiffs may have many questions about how to file one of these suits. For instance, who should the plaintiff even sue—who was legally responsible for the accident? And what is the first step of the process? What does the plaintiff need to prove to be successful, and what may they be able to recover? Questions like these can be complicated, and their answers can raise even more questions. That is why many Washington, D.C. plaintiffs who are injured in accidents decide to work with a personal injury attorney when filing their lawsuits. While an attorney is not strictly required, having someone to answer questions and handle the complicated requirements can relieve a lot of pressure and stress. An attorney can also increase an accident victim’s overall chance of success.

If anyone suffers an injury or sickness caused by a recalled food, they may be able to file a Washington, D.C. product liability claim to recover compensation. Recalls generally involve foods contaminated by various pathogens, such as E. coli or Salmonella. Food recalls can also occur due to a foreign object being present in the food. The Food and Drug Administration monitors the safety of most food products, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products.

A recall does not automatically establish that a defendant is liable, but it may serve as evidence in a product liability case. A court may not always allow such evidence, but even if it does, the plaintiff must still prove that the specific food that the plaintiff consumed was defective and that the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Cases like this may require the testimony of an expert who can explain the link between the defect and the plaintiff’s symptoms and injuries. If there is evidence of a recall, that may help prove that the food the plaintiff purchase was contaminated. Testing may also be done in some situations to determine if the food was actually affected. Testing may also be done on the plaintiff to show whether certain pathogens were present in the plaintiff’s body.

Over 760,000 Pounds of Hot Pockets Recalled

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the headlines for the past year, and has affected Washington, D.C. residents just as it has affected the rest of the nation. Many Washington, D.C. residents have fallen ill or even died from COVID-19, and many families are mourning loved ones but are unable to gather in-person to celebrate their lives. But amidst all this, personal injury accidents are still occurring in Washington, D.C. and across the nation—some totally separate from COVID-19 and some as a result. Some of these accidents, occurring in overcrowded and understaffed hospitals, raise questions about hospitals’ legal duty to protect patients.

For example, take a recent accident that made national headlines. According to the New York Times, an 82-year-old man was being treated for COVID-19 at a hospital when he was bludgeoned to death with an oxygen tank by his roommate at the hospital, another COVID-19 patient. The men were sharing a two-person room, and the victim began to pray one morning, angering his 37-year-old roommate, who then struck him with an oxygen tank. He was pronounced dead the next morning. The roommate was arrested and charged with murder and elder abuse. Bail was set at $1 million.

This is not the first time someone has been killed in a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals all across the country are overwhelmed, overcrowded, and understaffed, potentially setting the scene for incidents such as this. For example, the New York Times reports that in April of 2020, an 86-year-old woman died at a hospital when another patient shoved her for breaking social distancing guidelines.

Many Washington, D.C. residents are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people lost their jobs, or have had their hours significantly cut, and are struggling to pay rent or buy groceries. This makes Washington, D.C. accidents that injure people and cause financial strain even more tragic, because they can cause significant damage to already struggling individuals and families. And many of these accidents are unexpected—happening out of nowhere—illustrating how someone’s life can change drastically in just one moment.

For example, consider a recent accident affecting a food truck. According to a local news article, the accident occurred around 9 PM one Saturday evening when a car suddenly approached the pizza stand at high speed and crashed into it. The owner, who was at the time packing a pizza to the side of the van, told officials he saw his stepson get thrown several feet from the impact of the collision. While the owner was not himself injured, his stepson unfortunately was. He suffered severe injuries and had to be rushed to the emergency room in serious condition. A second person was also badly hurt in the crash.

While injuries like this are already tragic on their own, this one is particularly tragic due to the family’s struggles during the pandemic. The owner said he and his family lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and poured all of their savings into setting up this pizza stand. Giving an interview to the local news, the owner said “I’m so sad because I lost everything. I worked so hard, so many years to save my money,” to try and run his own business, “but now it’s gone.” Community members are attempting to raise money to buy him a new trailer and repair the pizza oven, but the situation is still frustrating and upsetting for the family.

In the tragic event of the untimely death of a loved one in Washington, D.C., family members may be able to hold wrongful parties responsible through the filing of a wrongful death claim. Family members may be able to receive monetary compensation through a successful claim. Under the D.C. Code § 16-2701, a wrongful death is a death caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of a person or corporation” that would have allowed the person to recover if death did not ensure.

The Wrongful Death Act is intended to provide a means for close relatives of the deceased to recover compensation from the wrongful actor because the relatives would have expected assistance from the deceased if he had survived. Beneficiaries can recover for losses due to the financial support the deceased would have likely provided if he had survived and for losses for the value of lost services such as education and advice support the deceased would have likely provided to the family members. Damages include reasonable expenses for the deceased’s “last illness” and the burial.

A wrongful death claim in Washington, D.C. must be filed by the estate’s personal representative on behalf of the deceased’s spouse or domestic partner. If no spouse or domestic partner exists, the next of kin can file suit, including children, parents, or siblings. A wrongful death claim is not derived from the deceased’s estate, but rather focuses on the losses suffered by family members. For that reason, a jury can allocate damages unequally among the beneficiaries in the suit. Damages are determined according to the unique damages suffered by the next of kin. Under Washington, D.C. law, a claim under D.C.’s Survival Act is a separate claim. A claim under the Survival Act allows recovery arising from personal injury to the decedent and which can be filed by the decedent’s representative. Generally, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the death of the deceased.

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