Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

When someone is injured as a result of another person’s negligence, Washington D.C. law allows the victim to seek monetary compensation from the party responsible for their injuries. The victim may file a negligence action, and if successful they may recover for lost wages, past and future medical bills, and even for the pain and suffering they suffered as a result of their injury. While this may sound like a simple process, the requirements for successfully bringing a negligence claim can at times be difficult to manage.

To be successful in a negligence claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty of care towards the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, that the breach was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result. When filing a claim, it is crucial to include all of these elements in the complaint. Without one of the above elements, the case can be dismissed before it even begins, and the plaintiff will not recover any compensation for their injuries.

For instance, it is not enough to establish that the defendant had a duty of care toward the plaintiff, that they breached this duty, and that the plaintiff was injured. Missing in this example is the critical element of causation. To succeed, the plaintiff must show that their injuries were a direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty. This cannot be implied but must be explicitly stated.

A state appellate court recently considered a case highlighting the importance of local contributory negligence laws in Washington, D.C. slip and fall cases. According to the court’s decision, the defendant, an auto car dealership, hired a cleaning company to clean the dealership. The plaintiff was an employee of the cleaning company and was covering for another employee janitor while cleaning the dealership one night. While cleaning, the plaintiff decided to take out the trash before scrubbing the floors of a certain area of the dealership. On his way to the dumpster, however, he slipped in a puddle of oil and transmission fluid that he had not seen previously.

As a result of his slip and fall accident, the plaintiff suffered a severe knee injury, and he eventually brought suit against the defendant dealership to seek monetary compensation. In his suit, he argued that the dealership was negligent by breaching their duty to maintain reasonably safe premises for him and that he suffered injuries as a result.

Under Washington, D.C. law in this situation, the defendant dealership might be able to argue that the plaintiff was partially at fault for his injuries, because he knew there was likely to be oil and transmission fluid on the floor and he thus should have been more careful. Employers do have a duty of care to provide reasonably safe working conditions for those who work for them, but employers faced with this type of liability may want to argue that the victim was contributorily negligent and thus partially responsible for the accident.

In Washington D.C., injury victims may be able to recover for their damages if they can establish that their injuries were the result of another’s negligence. Lawsuits based on another’s negligence are appropriate when the accident victim can prove that the other party’s negligent action or inaction caused their injuries. Favorable outcomes are only possible when the victim successfully meets the following four elements of a Washington D.C personal injury action: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The first two elements require the victim to prove that the other party owed them a duty to act responsibly, and that they breached this duty. Victims often face challenges when they reach the causation element.

In Washington D.C., plaintiffs must prove that the defendant’s actions were either the cause-in-fact or proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Cause-in-fact is when the injury would not have occurred but-for some action of the defendant. Whereas, proximate cause is a legal theory where the plaintiff argues that the defendant engaged in some action that set in motion the sequence of events that ultimately led to the plaintiff’s injury.

Proximate cause is broken down into two further elements; policy, and cause-in-fact. Washington, D.C specified these two distinctions in an attempt to limit a defendant’s responsibility. Most frequently, the defense occurs in instances where a defendant claims that the chain of events that led to the plaintiff’s injuries was unforeseeable or extraordinary.

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 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.

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