Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

The ultimate question in a Washington, D.C. personal injury case is whether the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries; however, before a case even reaches a jury, countless other legal issues must be addressed. One issue that frequently comes up, but is often initially overlooked by accident victims, is where a Washington, D.C. personal injury case should be filed.

The general rule is that the plaintiff can file the case in whatever jurisdiction they choose. However, the court where the lawsuit is filed must have jurisdiction over the defendant; otherwise, the court will not have the legal authority to hear the case. In some personal injury cases, such as Washington, D.C. (the “District”) car accident cases, jurisdiction is easily established because the wrongful act occurred within the District. However, other types of cases, can present more complex scenarios. A recent case illustrates the concept of jurisdiction and why it is important where a claim is filed.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, who lived in Arkansas, traveled to Louisiana to attend a “tent sale” at a sporting goods store. While the plaintiff was shopping in the tent, she tripped and fell on a rug and broke her arm. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the store in her home state of Arkansas.

One of the most important decisions any Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiffs must make early on in the process is which parties to name as defendants in the lawsuit. Failing to name all potentially liable parties can have a disastrous effect on the plaintiff’s case for several reasons. First, a plaintiff typically only gets “one bite at the apple” and cannot file a second case based on the same allegations. Second, if a named defendant can convince the judge or jury that an unnamed party bore responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries, the named defendant may escape liability entirely.

In Washington, D.C. dog bite cases, the owner of the animal that attacked the plaintiff should certainly be named as a defendant. However, depending on the surrounding circumstances, there may be additional parties, such as a landlord or property manager, who should be named. A recent case shows the type of analysis courts engage in when considering a dog-bite claim made against someone other than the animal’s owner.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was out walking her two small dogs when two larger dogs began attacked her animals. The plaintiff tried to intervene, but one of the larger dogs knocked her down to the ground and started attacking her. A neighbor called the police, who shot and killed both of the large dogs. The plaintiff was airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

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For many residents and guests, Washington, D.C. is known as a walkable city. At the same time, the District gets its fair share of winter weather. Thus, the winter months always bring about an increase in the number of Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accidents due to snowy and icy conditions.

Generally, Washington, D.C. landowners (including the government) have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. The case of snow and ice is no exception, and landowners should take the necessary actions to clear their property of hazardous snow and ice. Of course, property owners cannot be responsible for immediately clearing snow as it falls, so the law provides a 24-hour grace period. However, after 24 hours, a landowner can be liable for injuries that occur due to snowy or icy conditions on their property.

Weather-related slip-and-fall accidents frequently raise a number of unique issues beyond those that typically arise in a premises liability case. A recent case illustrates one court’s distinction between the “natural” and “unnatural” accumulation of snow. While Washington, D.C, premises liability law does not draw this same distinction, the local law is similar in that courts focus on the landowner’s knowledge of the hazard and the appropriateness of their actions in remedying the hazardous conditions.

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As a general rule, Washington, D.C. landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they allow onto their property, and when someone is injured on another’s property they may be able to pursue a claim for compensation through a Washington, D.C. premises liability lawsuit. However, landowners are not always responsible for a visitor’s injuries. Thus, a common question that comes up in Washington, D.C. premises liability cases is whether a landowner can be liable for injuries caused by criminal acts of a third-party.

These cases are more common than most people think. For example, violent criminal acts that occur in Washington, D.C. apartment complexes, schools, playgrounds, basketball courts, or parking lots may all be preventable. However, determining when the landowner can be held liable for the injuries caused as a result of such criminal conduct can be tricky. A recent state appellate opinion discusses how courts view premises liability claims based on a third-party’s criminal conduct.

The Facts

In its opinion, the court explained that the plaintiff had just finished picking up a few items at the grocery store and was walking to her car when she was approached by a man who shot and killed her. The estate of the plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim against the owner of the grocery store, arguing that the owner had a duty to protect customers from the criminal acts of third parties.

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Premises liability is a legal concept that imposes a duty on landowners to keep their property safe for guests. These cases are often referred to as slip-and-fall cases. Often, Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accidents occur at a business or while on government-owned property. However, that is not always the case.

It is not uncommon, however, for someone to be injured while visiting a loved one’s home. Of course, the law does not prevent a person from bringing a claim against a family member. And it is important to remember that homeowner’s insurance will generally cover personal injury claims made against a homeowner. Thus, even if a loved one’s negligence causes a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident in failing to ensure their property is safe, the homeowner will not typically be the one required to pay for any damages suffered by the accident victim.

A recent case illustrates a situation in which an injury victim may choose to pursue a claim against a loved one based on injuries sustained on the loved one’s property.

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Most Washington, D.C. personal injury cases are based on the theory of negligence. In Washington, D.C., there are two primary defenses to personal injury lawsuits: contributory negligence and assumption of the risk. As we have discussed at length in other posts, contributory negligence refers to an injury victim’s shared responsibility in bringing about their own injuries. Under Washington, D.C. personal injury law, if a plaintiff is contributorily negligent, they are precluded from recovering for their injuries.

The assumption of risk is a different, but related concept. Under an assumption of the risk defense, a defendant is claiming that the plaintiff voluntarily entered into a situation with full knowledge and appreciation of the risks involved. In these situations, while a plaintiff’s actions may not have contributed to their injuries, their acceptance of the risks involved with a particular activity prevent them from holding others responsible for their injuries. The doctrine of assumption of the risk only rarely applies to Washington, D.C. car accident cases. That said, it is much more common in premises liability cases and sports injury cases.

A recent state appellate opinion discusses the concept of assumption of the risk as it relates to skiing.

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After a plaintiff files a Washington, D.C. personal injury case, the need may arise for the plaintiff to file an amendment to their complaint. It may be possible to add a previously unnamed party, add or remove a claim, or correct a party’s name. Depending on the amendment, there can be major implications regarding the applicable statute of limitations. Thus, in order to understand why the concept of relation back is important, one must first be familiar with statutes of limitation.

Generally speaking, a statute of limitations provides for the timeframe in which the plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations usually starts to run at the time of injury; however, there are extenuating circumstances in which the statute of limitations does not begin to accrue until a later date. Once the statute of limitations expires, the plaintiff can no longer pursue a claim against the defendant. In Washington, D.C., the statute of limitations for personal injury actions is three years.

A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court discussed the concept of relation back, and why it is so important.

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Washington, D.C. personal injury claims that are brought by an employee against an employer are rare, because the Washington, D.C. workers’ compensation program typically acts as an injured employee’s sole remedy against their employer. The good news is that workers’ compensation claims do not require an employee to show that their employer was at fault. This makes obtaining compensation easier in situations where an employer was not at fault, or even when an employee was at fault.

The problem with workers’ compensation claims is that they offer limited compensation to injury victims. Generally, a workers’ compensation claimant is only entitled to compensation for medical expenses and wages. This leaves an injured employee with no recourse for the emotional pain and suffering that frequently accompany these injuries.

Although rare, in some cases it is possible to pursue a Washington, D.C. personal injury claim against an employer. For example, if an employer caused an employee’s injury through intentional conduct, the employer may not receive protection from the workers’ compensation program. Additionally, if the injured worker is either a seaman or a railroad worker, federal law may explicitly allow for a claim to be filed against an employer.

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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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