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Anyone who has been injured or lost a family member in a Washington, D.C. personal injury accident may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, before pursuing a claim for compensation it is important for accident victims to keep in mind the role that their own negligence could play in barring recovery, even if that role was a slight one.

In Washington, D.C. wrongful death and personal injury cases, the doctrine of contributory negligence bars recovery for the plaintiff, if the victim was at all at fault in causing the accident. States and localities have various laws surrounding contributory negligence, so cases may play out differently depending on where in the country the suit is brought. The Washington, D.C. law is one of the harshest for accident victims, so navigating a suit with a potential contributory negligence defense can be incredibly risky without the aid of an attorney.

A recent state appellate opinion serves as a good example of how a plaintiff’s own fault can affect their ability to recover. According to the court’s opinion, a sixteen-year-old boy was murdered after leaving his high school early and without permission. While the details of his departure and subsequent murder are largely unknown, the evidence establishes that he was leaving to engage in either a firearms deal or to buy marijuana. When he was found later, he was in an apartment complex known for illegal activity and with a large amount of money. His estate brought suit against his high school in a wrongful death action, claiming that the school was negligent in not monitoring and supervising the victim.

Washington, D.C. slip and fall lawsuits are based on the traditional theory of negligence and fault. Thus, when a pedestrian slips and falls due to an issue with a walking area or path, the property or landowner may be liable for the pedestrian’s injuries. Most frequently, slip and fall lawsuits stem from injuries that occur on slippery surfaces, uneven walkways, unsecured rugs, or liquid spills. However, Washington, D.C. slip and fall lawsuits may also arise from injuries sustained from short steps, inappropriate lighting, and unstable handrails. For some, the damages that result from these dangerous conditions may not be significant; however, others suffer severe injuries after premises liability accidents.

Under Washington, D.C. premises liability law, property owners or occupiers must take specific steps to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. The standard of care that a property owner owes their visitor depends on the type of person who is visiting the property. In business situations, visitors are often considered “invitees.” These are individuals who enter a property for the benefit of the property owner. Property owners must use reasonable and ordinary care to correct and warn their visitors of any dangerous conditions. Although, Washington, D.C. law requires property owners to provide safe environments for customers and passersby; the law also requires invitees to engage in safe behavior.

Washington, D.C. law allows defendants to use contributory negligence as a defense to the claims against them. Washington, D.C.  is one of only four states that follows the theory of pure contributory negligence. Pure contributory negligence bars plaintiffs from recovery if the courts find that they possessed any fault for the accident. This means that if the plaintiff were even 1% at fault, their claim would be barred entirely. There are ways to overcome a contributory negligence defense, but they require a thorough understanding of premises liability laws.

When someone buys a home, especially one that is newly built, they assume that it will be safe. However, that is not always the case. Construction companies routinely cut corners as they approach deadlines, or as other jobs start coming in. On occasion, these shortcuts will affect the structural integrity of the home or the home’s safety.

Generally, home builders can be responsible when someone is hurt as a result of their negligence through a Washington, D.C. personal injury case. However, under D.C. Code § 12–310, there is a ten-year statute of repose that applies to these claims. A statute of repose is a law that imposes a deadline by which a plaintiff must file their claim. Unlike a statute of limitation, a statute of repose cannot be tolled or extended, even if the plaintiff has no idea they may have a case against the defendant until the statute has expired.

D.C. Code § 12–310 provides that claims resulting from the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property must be filed “within the ten-year period beginning on the date the improvement was substantially completed.” A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts analyze construction claims.

Washington, D.C. personal injury law imposes a duty on landowners to take certain precautions to ensure that their property is safe. Generally, when someone is hurt on another’s property due to the landowner’s failure to fulfill this duty, the injury victim can hold the landowner responsible for their injuries. However, if a recreational use statute applies, the landowner may be immune from liability. A recent case illustrates this concept.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her boyfriend planned a camping trip at a state park. The two camped at a campground that was accessible from a parking lot. There were two paths to the campsite, a stone staircase and an Americans with Disabilities (ADA)-complaint handicapped ramp. After spending one night, the plaintiff tripped on some uneven pavement while climbing up the stone steps to the campground’s parking lot. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the state, as the operator of the park.

The state where the case arose has a recreational use statute, providing that any public entity is not liable for injuries occurring on “any unpaved road which provides access to fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, riding . . . water sports, recreational or scenic areas . . . [or] any trail used for the above purposes.” The state argued that the steps constituted a “trail” under the statute, and that the court should dismiss the plaintiff’s case. The trial court agreed, dismissing the plaintiff’s claim.

As a general matter, those who own or lease property owe a duty to those whom they allow onto their property. If a guest can establish that their injury was due to the property owner’s negligence, the injured party may be able to pursue a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit.

Washington, D.C. premises liability rules apply to both owners of the property as well as those that lease the property. Technically, the laws apply to anyone or any company that exercises possession over the area where the injury occurred. Thus, some District of Columbia slip and fall claims require the court to take a detailed look at the lease between two parties to determine whether a party possesses the location.

In a recent federal appellate decision, the court was tasked with determining whether an insurance company that insured a church could be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries that occurred while at a bible camp at a resort. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance company was not on the hook for the plaintiff’s injuries because the lease between the church and the resort did not mention the attraction that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Earlier in June of this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case. Specifically, the court was asked to determine whether the plaintiff’s case should proceed against both the owner of the complex, as well as the property manager. The lower court dismissed the claim against the property manager, and the plaintiff appealed. The case is important for Maryland slip-and-fall accident victims because it illustrates how a plaintiff can potentially hold multiple parties liable for their injuries.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff slipped and fell as she was walking from her apartment to a kiosk to pick up her mail. At the time, the plaintiff had lived at the apartment complex for 11 months, and had always driven to get her mail. On her first trip on foot to the mail kiosk, she fell as she was descending a handicap access curb cutout.

As it turns out, the slope of the ramp was in violation of the American with Disabilities Act because it was too steep. And evidently, the owner of the complex learned about this when he hired an inspector to survey the property before he purchased it. After the owner purchased the complex, he enlisted the defendant property management company. The property management company was aware of the inspector’s report noting the ramp violation. However, the contract between the owner and the property management company provided that the property management company only had authority to conduct repairs.

All Washington, D.C. personal injury cases must follow the procedural court rules set out in the rules of civil procedure. However, Washington, D.C. medical malpractice cases are subject to additional hurdles that, if not correctly followed, may result in the dismissal of a plaintiff’s claim. Thus, plaintiffs bringing any claim that may be construed as a medical malpractice case should take all precautions to ensure they protect their right to recover.

In many medical malpractice cases, by the time a case reaches trial, it is too late for the plaintiff to comply with the strict procedural rules of a medical malpractice claim. Often, defendants argue that the plaintiff’s claim is one of medical malpractice, and that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiff failed to comply with the applicable procedural rules. These plaintiffs are then in the position of explaining why their claim is not one of medical malpractice, and is instead a claim of traditional negligence. A recent case acts as a good illustration of this principle.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a patient at a clinic. While at the clinic, an employee attempted a venipuncture in the plaintiff’s right arm. Apparently, the employee did not have permission to conduct the procedure, and as a result of the attempted venipuncture, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries.

In some Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, there are complex issues beyond the understanding of the common juror. Typically, these issues involve the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and how they are traceable to the defendant’s conduct. In such cases, courts allow parties to call expert witnesses – often doctors – whose expertise can help the jury understand and contextualize the evidence.

Typically, when one party plans on calling an expert witness, the other side will also call an expert witness to offer a contrary position. This situation is referred to as the “battle of the experts,” because the outcome of the case may very well come down to which expert is more believable in the eyes of the jury. Thus, the decision of which expert to call is a critical determination that can make or break an accident victim’s case.

In a recent personal injury opinion released by a federal appellate court, the court discussed what a plaintiff must establish to present an expert witness. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in an on-the-job accident involving a machine used to crush automobiles and other large pieces of machinery. The plaintiff filed a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the crusher.

In most Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, the jury makes the final decision as to whether the defendant is liable, and the judge aids the jury in making this determination by ruling on preliminary issues and then instructs the jury on the appropriate law. However, in some rare cases, a judge can grant a party’s motion for judgment as a matter of law after a jury has rendered a verdict, essentially reversing the jury’s decision.

When granted, these motions are almost always appealed. Thus, post-verdict motions for judgment as a matter of law are typically only allowed if the judge believes that the jury decided the case incorrectly. A recent federal appellate case illustrates the high bar a party must meet when seeking such a motion.

According to the court’s recitation of the facts giving rise to the case, the plaintiff was a guest at a friend’s wedding, which was held at the defendant resort. As the night progressed, several of the guests decided they would jump into the resort’s pool, which was near the dance floor. As guests ran from the dance floor to the pool and back, the floor became wet.

A release of liability is a type of contract by which one party releases another party from liability that may otherwise have been the basis for a Washington, D.C. personal injury case. Releases of liability are sometimes separate forms that must be signed by the participant or their parent, as in the case of school field trips. However, releases of liability are also frequently on the back of tickets to events such as concerts, festivals, museums, or certain pay-to-play activities such as skiing, bungee-jumping, biking, and rafting.

Liability releases are contracts, and are often found to be enforceable by the courts. If enforceable, a release may excuse the negligent conduct of an operator, preventing an injury victim from pursuing a claim for compensation. However, courts carefully review liability releases to ensure that they are valid. A recent case involving a skiing accident illustrates how courts analyze releases of liability.

According to the court’s opinion, a ten-year-old boy was injured while skiing after he slipped and fell on a patch of machine-made snow. The boy was a member of a local ski team, and regularly skied expert terrain. Before the season began, the boy’s father signed a release of liability on behalf of his son. The release purported to waive the boy’s right to sue the ski team or any ski resort for any injuries he sustained, including injuries that were the result of another party’s negligence.

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