How a Plaintiff’s Fault Plays into a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Case

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.

A contributory negligence defense can be especially effective in Washington, D.C. slip and fall cases, because Washington, D.C. is one the only places in the country that uses a theory of pure contributory negligence. This theory bars the plaintiff from recovering anything for their injuries if the court finds that they were at all at fault, even if it was just one percent. Luckily, in cases involving an employer and an employee, the law is slightly less harsh: contributory negligence can only be used when the employee is significantly at fault because their actions were willful, wanton, or recklessly in disregard for their own safety. While this is a better standard for the plaintiff to meet, the stakes for not meeting it are high and a lawsuit can become tricky without an experienced attorney knowledgeable in premises liability laws. Therefore, accident victims considering pursuing a negligence claim are advised to consult with an attorney to discuss their potential suit.

Do You Need A Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or a loved one have recently been injured in a Washinton, D.C. slip and fall accident or another type of accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, we have decades of experience handling complex Washington D.C. personal injury lawsuits. Our attorneys are dedicated and knowledgeable about the barriers Washington, D.C. plaintiffs face when pursuing claims, and we will work hard to overcome these challenges. Call 800-954-1949 today to schedule your free consultation today.

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