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.
The Pending Bill
The bill that is currently awaiting a vote started off as a small exception to the general rule of contributory negligence in Washington DC, at first only applying to bicyclist accident victims. However, as the bill picked up steam, other classes of accident victims were included in the bill’s language. Currently, the bill, if passed, would apply comparative-fault rules for bicyclists, pedestrians, and the elderly.
One potential concern some people have about the bill is that it may increase the costs of insurance for everyone. This is because, as the rules regarding who can recover are relaxed, insurance companies will be responsible for more—and larger—damages awards. In turn, insurance companies may need to increase their premium rates in order to compensate for the change.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington DC Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington DC accident, you may be entitled to monetary damages to help compensate you for your injuries. However, keep in mind that under the current laws, any accident victim who is even the slightest bit at fault may be prevented from recovering at all for his or her injuries. This makes the involvement of an experienced attorney that much more crucial. To speak to a dedicated attorney about your case, call one of the knowledgeable attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. The lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen have decades of combined experience litigating all kinds of personal injury claims. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free initial consultation.
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Misplaced Construction Sign Results in $100,000 Settlement with St. Louis County, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, August 21, 2014