Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Filing a personal injury case in Washington, D.C. is a complicated process, governed by strict and numerous rules. Even the most meritorious claim can be defeated solely due to a failure to abide by a particular rule, such as filing after the statute of limitations has expired or improperly pleading a case. While some plaintiffs may be able to successfully navigate these rules themselves, the likelihood of a mistake is much higher when a suit is filed without the assistance of an attorney.

Small mistakes in these cases can change the entire outcome of the suit. For example, a state supreme court recently considered a personal injury case resulting from a car accident, where the plaintiff, a world-ranked collegiate athlete, was injured, allegedly leading to hip surgery years later and negatively impacting his personal life and athletic career. The defendant acknowledged fault for the accident, although disputed the plaintiff’s expert witness’s testimony as to the extent of the harm and the amount of damage caused.

On the last day that the parties were allowed to submit expert witnesses, the plaintiff submitted a new expert who would testify as to the plaintiff’s future lost wages and earnings as a result of the accident. The defendant, in response, was a week late in identifying a rebuttal witness, having missed the deadline supplied by the court. The trial court thus excluded the rebuttal witness’s testimony. At trial, the plaintiff’s expert provided extensive and unrebutted testimony to support the claim for future lost wages and earnings, and the jury ultimately awarded $2 million to the plaintiff. The defendant appealed to the court of appeals, who affirmed the decision to exclude the evidence, and the case was finally brought to the state supreme court.

When someone is injured in a car accident, the law allows them to bring suit against the responsible party and recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other forms of damages. In order to do so, the plaintiff must first prove that the accident was the defendant’s fault, and then the plaintiff must present detailed evidence proving the resulting damages. Doing this on your own is usually impracticable, so Washington, D.C. plaintiffs will usually attempt to bring in expert witnesses to testify regarding the accident.

Expert witnesses differ significantly from eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses are those who actually saw an accident occur. In contrast, expert witnesses did not see the accident, but they have a certain expertise that can help a judge or jury understand how the accident happened, how severe the injuries are, the issues that the injuries might cause in the future, and other relevant information. Washington, D.C. plaintiffs may want to bring in a variety of expert witnesses to assist with their claims, including medical experts to testify about the injuries suffered, accident reconstruction specialists who can explain who was at fault for the accident, and accountants or economic specialists to help calculate the damages that the plaintiffs suffered. Since car accidents and the resulting injuries can be very complicated, expert witnesses provide a lot of value to a court in deciding a personal injury claim.

Different states follow different rules for when an expert’s testimony will be admissible and considered in court. Until 2016, Washington, D.C. courts generally allowed expert evidence to be considered when the methods used by the expert were generally accepted by the scientific community. This standard was relatively relaxed, and plaintiffs were less likely to have their expert witness’ testimony blocked. However, in 2016, the D.C. Court of Appeals changed the standard to a stricter one, commonly called the Daubert standard because it first appeared in a case by the same name. The Daubert standard asks judges to thoroughly consider the expert witness’ testimony and make sure that the opinion is based on scientifically valid methodology, considering test results, error rates, peer reviews, relevant standards, and acceptance in the scientific community. Judges are more likely to rule testimony inadmissible under this standard. As a result, plaintiffs may have to work harder to ensure that their expert witness’ testimony is accepted.

Distracted driving, particularly from texting while driving, is a major cause of Washington, D.C. car accidents. Although texting while driving has been illegal in D.C. since 2004 when the city passed The Distracted Driving Safety Act, far too many individuals still text and drive, endangering not only themselves but everyone else on the roads with them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that, every day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, and over 1,000 are injured. Texting while driving is one of the most common forms of distracted driving and has become more and more of an issue over the past decade as cellphones and other mobile devices become more commonplace.

A recent New York Times article highlights the dangers of texting and driving, as well as the difficulty securing criminal convictions when serious accidents occur. According to the article, a pedestrian was killed when the allegedly distracted driver rear-ended a second vehicle, which then hit the victim, who was on a walk. Prosecutors claimed that the first driver had been texting at the time of the crash, as evidenced by the unfinished text message on her phone.

The tragic case illustrates the dangers posed by texting while driving. A momentary distraction, causing a driver to glance away from the road, can quickly turn into a tragedy, injuring other drivers and pedestrians alike. Washington, D.C., like most other states, has laws prohibiting texting and driving, meaning that distracted drivers causing a crash may be prosecuted through the criminal justice system. However, according to a spokeswoman for the national Governors Highway Safety Association, prosecutions can be challenging, because of difficulties obtaining evidence proving that a driver was distracted. And even when prosecutions are successful, the criminal charges do very little to help the victims, if they survived, or their family members.

Anyone who has spent time driving around the District of Columbia will not be surprised to hear that poor road conditions and dangerously designed roads are among the common causes of Washington, D.C. car accidents. However, unlike other Washington, D.C. car accident claims, a plaintiff’s claim that a dangerous road contributed to a crash is not filed against another motorist, but against the government entity responsible for designing or maintaining the road.

Washington, D.C. defective road claims may be based on several theories, including:

  • dangerous design of a road;

Washington, D.C. is not an easy place to drive. With numerous highways, bridges, round-a-bouts and a somewhat complex system of mostly one-way streets, the District of Columbia can be difficult to navigate even for those who have lived in the city for years. At the same time, Washington, D.C. is a city that sees an extraordinary number of tourists, many of whom rent cars. These tourists are often unaccustomed to the District’s layout, and can pose a serious hazard when trying to navigate the city’s unfamiliar roads.

Earlier this month, a wrong-way accident on Interstate 295 claimed the lives of two people and injured three others. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred around shortly before 3 a.m. when a vehicle traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 295 collided head-on with a Mercedes Benz. The vehicle then also collided with a Toyota Corolla.

Evidently, shortly after the initial collision, a Chevrolet Suburban was approaching the accident in the southbound lanes of I-295. The driver swerved to avoid the collision ahead of him. While the driver avoided the vehicles that had just been involved in the collision, the driver lost control of the Suburban, which collided with a concrete barrier.

Earlier last month, a vehicle belonging to a D.C. Council Member was involved in a Washington, D.C. hit-and-run accident on Interstate 295, near Malcolm X Avenue SE. According to a local news report, the accident occurred just before midnight. An acquaintance of the Council Member was operating the vehicle, and the Council Member was not inside the car at the time of the accident.

Evidently, a BMW that was owned by the Council Member rear-ended a Toyota Camry that had three people inside. Initially, both vehicles came to a stop. However, from this point, each driver offers a different version of events.

The man who was rear-ended told police that the other driver provided him with two phone numbers and a name and then drove away. However, neither phone number was valid. The driver then called the police, who ran the name given by the other driver. Police could not find anyone who went by the name provided by the driver. The accident victim then showed police a photograph he took of the car’s license plate. Police later determined that the vehicle belonged to Council Member White.

Although texting while driving is illegal in Washington, D.C., it still presents a serious danger to D.C. drivers. According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, about nine people are killed, and over 1,000 injured, every day in the United States in incidents involving a distracted driver.

Last month, a federal appeals court decided a case against Apple alleging that the iPhone’s text notification caused a fatal car crash involving a distracted driver. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the at-fault driver received a text message on her iPhone as she was driving on the highway. That driver allegedly looked down to read the message, and when she looked back up at the road, she was unable to avoid a crash. She hit another vehicle, killing two adults and rendering a child paraplegic. The driver was convicted of criminally negligent homicide.

Representatives of the victims in the crash sued Apple in federal court, claiming that the crash was caused by Apple’s failure to warn users about the risks of distracted driving and by Apple’s failure to implement a lock-out mechanism. At the time, Apple had secured a patent for a “lock-out mechanism,” to prevent users from using certain functions while driving. The plaintiffs claimed that Apple was liable in part because it did not implement the lock-out mechanism on the iPhone 5, which the driver was using at the time of the crash. The plaintiffs further claimed that Apple was liable because there is “an unconscious and automatic, neurobiological compulsion to engage in texting behavior” when a user receives a text message notification. Apple moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the court granted the motion, dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaint. The plaintiffs appealed the decision.

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For the most part, the federal governments are responsible for building and maintaining the District’s roads. However, it is not uncommon for a motorist to find themselves on privately constructed and maintained roads. These include parking garages and private residential communities.

If a Maryland or Washington D.C. car accident occurs on a public road, it will be difficult to establish liability against the government unless the government failed to safely maintain the road. This is due to the immunity that governments have from liability. However, when a car accident occurs on private property, the landowner may be liable for the accident victim’s injuries. An example of this would be a private parking garage that is constructed with a blind corner.

A recent case discusses what an accident victim must prove in order to establish liability against a landowner in a car accident case.

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When someone is involved in a Washington, D.C. car accident, they are often able to recover compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses through an insurance claim filed with their own insurance carrier. However, an accident victim will not be permitted to recover for their pain and suffering through a claim with their own insurance company. This is due to Washington, D.C.’s no-fault insurance law.

What Is the No-Fault System?

The insurance requirements for Washington D.C. drivers are found in District of Columbia Code Chapter 24. Here, lawmakers have outlined the required amount of insurance motorists must obtain, and the process by which insurance companies approve or deny claims. In addition, the Chapter describes the District’s no-fault insurance system.

Under the no-fault system, a motorist can recover compensation for their injuries without establishing who was at fault for the collision that resulted in their injuries. While this sounds like it may favor accident victims, the system also limits the type of compensation that is available to accident victims to actual monetary losses. Thus, a Washington, D.C. car accident victim will not be eligible for compensation for their pain and suffering or other emotional damages unless they can establish the accident resulted in:

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an important issue that frequently arises in Washington, D.C. car accident cases filed against an allegedly negligent driver’s employer. The case required the court to determine if the defendant employer could be held liable for the allegedly negligent acts of an employee. Finding that the plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that the employee was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, the court determined that the defendant employer could not be held liable.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured when her vehicle was struck by another motorist who was talking on the phone at the time of the accident. Evidently, the other driver was coming home from her boyfriend’s house and was talking on the phone with one of the employees whom she supervises at work.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employer of the other driver, claiming that the driver’s employer was vicariously liable for her negligence. The plaintiff argued that liability was appropriate because the alleged at-fault driver was on a work-related call at the time of the accident.

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