Articles Posted in Personal Injury Case Law

To successfully bring a Washington, D.C. personal injury case, a plaintiff must be able to prove not just that the defendant was negligent but also that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injuries. While the concept of causation may sound like a straightforward determination, in practice, the element can be exceedingly complex.

Causation can be broken down into two separate inquiries, the first being “but for” causation, or cause-in-fact. To satisfy the cause-in-fact element, the plaintiff must show that absent the defendant’s negligence, the accident would not have occurred. In most cases, cause-in-fact is not difficult to establish.

The second part of a causation inquiry is called proximate cause, or legal cause. Not only is proximate cause much more complicated, but it is also more challenging to prove. Proximate cause requires that a plaintiff prove that the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injuries are sufficiently related to say that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

By some estimates, the District of Columbia gets nearly 19 million tourists per year. By and large, these visitors stay at hotels and homestays across the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. region. Occasionally, a hotel or homeowner fails to take the necessary precautions to make the property safe for visitors, increasing the chance of an accident. When an overnight guest is injured due to the negligence of a hotel or homeowner, the property owner may be held liable through a Washington, D.C premises liability lawsuit.

It is important to keep in mind that many issues can come up in a Washington, D.C. premises liability case. A recent state appellate opinion illustrates a common issue that comes up in hotel slip-and-fall cases. Specifically, the case deals with whether the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to establish that the hazard he claimed caused his fall presented an “unreasonable risk” of harm.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was in town for a sporting event and stayed at the defendant hotel with a friend. While the plaintiff was taking a shower, he slipped and fell, hitting his head. The plaintiff briefly lost consciousness. The plaintiff took pictures of the tub after his fall, and two days later his wife reported the incident to the hotel.

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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