Contributory Negligence Laws in Washington, D.C. Wrongful Death Claims

Anyone who has been injured or lost a family member in a Washington, D.C. personal injury accident may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, before pursuing a claim for compensation it is important for accident victims to keep in mind the role that their own negligence could play in barring recovery, even if that role was a slight one.

In Washington, D.C. wrongful death and personal injury cases, the doctrine of contributory negligence bars recovery for the plaintiff, if the victim was at all at fault in causing the accident. States and localities have various laws surrounding contributory negligence, so cases may play out differently depending on where in the country the suit is brought. The Washington, D.C. law is one of the harshest for accident victims, so navigating a suit with a potential contributory negligence defense can be incredibly risky without the aid of an attorney.

A recent state appellate opinion serves as a good example of how a plaintiff’s own fault can affect their ability to recover. According to the court’s opinion, a sixteen-year-old boy was murdered after leaving his high school early and without permission. While the details of his departure and subsequent murder are largely unknown, the evidence establishes that he was leaving to engage in either a firearms deal or to buy marijuana. When he was found later, he was in an apartment complex known for illegal activity and with a large amount of money. His estate brought suit against his high school in a wrongful death action, claiming that the school was negligent in not monitoring and supervising the victim.

Under D.C. law, the victim in this case could be completely barred from recovery, if the court or jury determined that he was contributorily negligent, or partially at fault, in any way. Although the school was arguably negligent in failing to properly monitor and supervise the victim, Washington, D.C. law would bar his estate’s recovery if he was only 5% at fault. This differs from the vast majority of states, which bar recovery only to the amount that the plaintiff was at fault – for instance, 5%. This law can be used by defendants to blame victims, even when they are only responsible for a small portion of the fault, to try and bar recovery completely. Understanding these intricacies and tactics can be difficult without the aid of an experienced attorney, especially when dealing with the aftermath of an accident.

Do You Need a Washington, D.C. Wrongful Death Attorney?

If you or a loved one is currently dealing with the aftermath of an accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers today to discuss your claim. Our skilled Washington, D.C. wrongful death attorneys are keenly familiar with the District’s contributory negligence laws, and have experience defeating the defense. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we understand the case law as well as the state and local statutes that may impact your claim. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 800-654-1949. Calling is risk-free, as there is no obligation or charge for the consultation.

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