Articles Posted in Car Accidents

After a D.C. car accident, victims may be suffering from physical injuries as well as dealing with the financial losses of property damages, lost wages, and medical expenses. To hold a negligent party responsible for the victim’s losses after a crash, a victim may be able to file a Washington, D.C. negligence claim.

In a negligence claim after a car crash, a plaintiff has to prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, that the defendant deviated from the applicable standard of care, and that there is a causal relationship between that deviation and the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving these issues.

To show the applicable standard of care and that the defendant deviated from the applicable standard of care, an expert may be required if the subject area is beyond the knowledge of the average juror. To prove a causal relationship, a plaintiff must show that the defendant was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Proximate cause has two components: cause-in-fact and a “policy element.” In deciding whether an injury is a cause-in-fact of a plaintiff’s injury, a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s negligent conduct was a substantial factor in bringing about the harm. Proximate caused has been a cause “which, in natural and continual sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.” The policy element of proximate cause limits liability based on the foreseeability of the injury—according to D.C. courts, a defendant may not be held liable if the chain of events that led to the plaintiff’s injury was “highly extraordinary in retrospect.” Generally, proximate cause is a question of fact for the jury to decide.

Self-driving cars were introduced several years ago, but as crashes continue to occur, they raise safety concerns for everyone on the road. Many say that self-driving cars employ safety features that make them safer than other cars and that drivers are cautioned to keep their eyes on the road. However, others say these vehicles are ripe for misuse and multiple crashes seem to support the fact that they present unique safety issues. Victims of a Washington, D.C. car accident involving a self-driving car or a negligent driver may be able to recover compensation from the driver or other entities at fault, as discussed further below.

A recent Tesla crash in Detroit has raised questions about the safety of the vehicle after multiple incidents, as one news source reported. In 2016, a man died in a crash in Florida when the vehicle was on Autopilot and failed to recognize the trailer of a truck crossing the highway. In 2019, another Tesla similarly crashed into a tractor-trailer when Autopilot was engaged. The recent incident in Detroit also involved a Tesla that crashed into the trailer of a truck. The company has not reported whether the vehicle was using Autopilot at the time. As in the 2016 accident, the Tesla drove under the tractor-trailer and tore off the roof of the car. The driver and the passenger suffered serious injuries in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident, as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA reported that it was investigating 23 similar crashes.

The Autopilot system uses radar and cameras to detect vehicles and objects in the road and can steer, accelerate, and brake automatically. The company maintains that drivers are supposed to pay close attention to the road when using Autopilot and should be ready to take control of the car. Yet, critics say that the company lacks safeguards to prevent drivers from misusing the system. Another vehicle with similar features switches off the autopilot when the driver looks away from the road and can only be used on major highways.

Sometimes, in the aftermath of Washington, D.C. car accidents, it is very clear what happened and who was at fault. But just as often, it is unclear what led to the accident. In some situations, it may be extremely difficult to figure out what happened and why. This is especially the case when the people involved in the accident passed away due to their injuries. In these circumstances, the family may be left with hundreds of questions while mourning their loss.

For example, take a recent fatal Washington, D.C. accident. Tragedy struck last month when a man was killed after his car went off the road, down an embankment, and struck a tree. According to a news article covering the accident, police and firefighters were called to the scene around 12:06 AM near Canal Road NW in the vicinity of the Maryland state line. Firefighters worked to rescue the driver of the car, who was trapped inside. Around 12:45 AM, they were able to free him and bring him to an area hospital. Unfortunately, he later died from his injuries.

The deceased driver was the only person in the car at the time of the crash, meaning he may be the only one present at the time of the accident. But while this may look at first glance like a single-vehicle crash, it is very possible that it was caused by another negligent driver. At times, another driver and vehicle can cause a major, even fatal, accident without actually getting into the crash themselves. For example, it’s possible that another driver, heading in the opposite direction, was drifting into the other lane and caused the first driver to swerve off the road. A negligent driver also could have made a sudden and improper stop, or been distracted while driving, causing the intense swerve. The negligent driver may have not even seen the car swerving and going off the road. Or, they might have, but decided to leave the scene of the accident rather than staying and potentially getting in legal trouble. Whatever the reason, it cannot be assumed that this crash was actually just a single-vehicle one.

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.

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.

When someone is killed in an accident, the law allows their family or estate to file a Washington, D.C. wrongful death lawsuit against the individual who caused their death—such as a negligent driver in a car crash. If successful, these lawsuits can result in damages to cover medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and, importantly, pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before their death. Sometimes, there are questions about what evidence can be introduced to prove pain and suffering in this case.

For example, take a recent state appellate case. The facts of the case are undeniably tragic: a couple was driving along the highway when the defendant, in a pickup truck, crossed the median and hit them. The couple, husband and wife, both died as a result of the collision. Their three-year-old daughter, who was also in the vehicle, survived.

The deceased wife’s mother filed suit against the defendant. At trial, the jury awarded her $3 million. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting irrelevant evidence at trial. At trial, the issue to be decided was the deceased wife’s conscious pain and suffering. The plaintiffs presented evidence that she was pregnant at the time of the collision. When the collision happened, she was on the telephone with her mother, telling her about the appointment confirming her pregnancy. The mother, the plaintiff in this case, then heard her daughter scream, “oh my god, look at that,” and then heard her scream her husband’s name, followed by the crash itself. The court held that evidence regarding her state of mind—including the fact that she was pregnant—had relevance to her fright, shock, and mental suffering before the collision.

In cases where it is difficult to determine who was to blame for an accident, the plaintiff’s role in the accident may be central to the case. This is because under Washington, D.C. law, according to the doctrine of contributory negligence, the plaintiff can be barred from recovery even if the plaintiff was only partially at fault for their own injuries. An example of a recent Washington, D.C. tragic car accident involving a potentially complicated legal scenario was reported on by one news source. According to the report, a man was tragically killed on a recent Sunday morning while he was putting gas in his car on the shoulder of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The crash occurred around three o’clock in the morning. The man died on the scene and the crash is still being investigated.

Liability in a crash like this can be tricky to sort out. Failing to notice or avoid a person standing on a shoulder of the highway indicates some liability on the part of the driver. However, if the victim was filling up his car in a poorly lit area, perhaps in a location that was hard to see from far away, he may have had some fault in causing the accident as well. In a car accident case involving the violation of a traffic regulation, there is a presumption of negligence for a violation, which can be rebutted by showing that the person did everything that a reasonable person who tried to follow the law would do.

Washington, D.C. follows the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, which means that if the plaintiff is found to be even partially at fault for their injuries, contributory negligence acts as a complete bar to recovery. To assert a contributory negligence defense, a party has to prove that the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care and that the failure was a substantial factor in causing the injury. A party asserting a contributory negligence defense must prove it by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

Purchasing car insurance is a good idea for all Washington, D.C. residents who drive—whether it be to work every day or just for errands occasionally. Whilst most car trips conclude without incident, Washington, D.C. car accidents do occur every day and can cause severe injuries in the blink of an eye. If a Washington, D.C. resident is involved in a car accident, they may rely on their insurance to cover the resulting costs, to ensure that they do not go into debt as a result.

However, it is important for all Washington, D.C. drivers to remember that having insurance does not necessarily mean you are covered in all circumstances, no matter what. Some insurance policies may have specific rules or procedures that drivers must follow if they hope to collect under their policy. For instance, some have “notice provisions,” which require a driver to notify the insurance company about an accident and resulting injuries and treatment to recover under the policy.

A recent state appellate court case, resulting from a car accident, provides an example of how these notice provisions work. According to the court’s written opinion, the accident occurred in August 2016, when the plaintiff was rear-ended while stopped at an intersection. After the collision, the plaintiff went that same day to a doctor’s office. The doctor examined her and x-rayed her neck, and then told her that she had whiplash. Almost two years later, in March of 2018, the plaintiff had surgery on her neck. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was insured by the defendant in the case, a well-known insurance company. Her policy stated that, to make the specific type of claim involved in this case, she must notify the insurance company of the claim and give them all of the details about the death, injury, treatment, and other information the company may need as soon as reasonably possible. The policy then stated that legal action could not be taken against the defendant insurance company unless the insured complied with the policy’s provisions.

Expert witnesses can provide useful testimony in a Washington, D.C. car accident case—and in some cases, their testimony is essential. Courts have held that in cases where the negligent conduct is “within the realm of common knowledge and everyday experience” a plaintiff does not need to present expert testimony to establish the standard of care or to prove that the defendant failed to meet the standard. However, in some cases, Washington, D.C. courts may require expert testimony to establish the standard of care, breach, or other issues.

If a case involves issues that are beyond the common knowledge of an average person, the court will generally find that an expert is essential to the case. For example, Washington, D.C. courts have held that an expert is required in cases that involve the operation of a juvenile detention center, the supervision of foster parents, the processing of credit card applications, and the maintenance of a water main system. A court has the discretion to admit or require expert testimony in a case.

In a recent case before another state appeals court, the court held that expert testimony was not required to rebut another expert’s testimony. In that case, the plaintiff had been injured in a car accident and filed a negligence claim against another driver involved in the accident, the owner of the vehicle, and an uninsured motorist claim against the plaintiff’s insurer. The plaintiff settled the claims with the driver and the owner but continued to trial against the insurer.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior employers can be held liable for the wrongful acts of their employees. For an employer to be liable in a Washington, D.C. injury case, an employee must have committed the wrongful act within the scope of their employment. The doctrine is meant to hold employers responsible and to aid victims in recovering compensation, as employers are often better situated to pay financial compensation.

Typically, to be within the scope of employment, the wrongful acts must be have been done at least in part to further the employer’s business, rather than solely for the employee’s own purposes. Generally, whether an employee was acting within the scope of their employment is a question for the jury to decide. A court may resolve the issue only where a reasonable juror could not find that the employee’s acts were within the scope of their employment.

In a recent case before one state’s appeals court, the court considered whether Lyft could be held liable for a driver’s accident while the driver was driving a car he rented through Lyft. The driver was on his way home in a car he had rented through Lyft’s “Express Drive program,” which allows drivers to rent vehicles pre-approved for use on the Lyft platform. The rental car could be used for driving for Lyft but could also be used for unlimited personal use. The driver had not worked for Lyft on the day of the accident, and while on his way home, the driver hit the plaintiffs’ vehicles, causing significant injuries.

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