On any given day, the streets of Washington, D.C. are filled with the excitement of passing cars, e-scooters, and bicyclists, to name a few – all of whom are sharing the roads. Until recently, D.C. offered little protection to “vulnerable users” injured while traveling on the road. Washington D.C. is one of the four states that still abides by contributory negligence. Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, and North Carolina are the other three states following contributory negligence rules.
In states with contributory negligence laws, individuals are barred from recovering compensation for their injuries in an accident if they contribute to causing the accident, even if they are only one percent at fault for the accident. Such laws have historically made it more difficult for individuals injured in accidents to receive compensation even when the other involved party has acted negligently. However, in December 2020, the D.C. Council passed a new law that offers more protection to vulnerable users of a public highway or sidewalk.
Under the new law which is titled the Vulnerable User Collision Recovery Amendment Act, a vulnerable user is defined as anyone “using an all-terrain vehicle, bicycle, dirt bike, electric mobility device, motorcycle, motorized bicycle, motor-driven cycle, non-motorized scooter, personal mobility device, skateboard or other similar devices.” The law puts a limit on the contributory negligence rule in accidents involving motor vehicles and electric mobility devices.
Before the new law went into effect, D.C. followed the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, which bars recovery if the plaintiff is found to be even partially responsible for their injuries. Forty-six other states have gotten rid of the contributory negligence law in favor of comparative negligence, which holds each party responsible for their share of contributions to the accident. The new law implemented in D.C. moves D.C. to a modified version of comparative negligence, meaning that vulnerable users who are less than fifty percent at fault will not be barred from recovery.
The change in the law in D.C. has been lauded by many advocates as a step in the right direction. Many “vulnerable users” who travel around the city via these electric mobility devices have let out a sigh of relief, as this change lowers their worry of getting into a collision and not being able to recover anything at all if they themselves make any type of mistake.
Accidents in Washington, D.C. can happen anywhere, at any place, at any time, and can involve any road user. Real harm can result from accidents, causing serious injury to one or multiple parties and serious financial obligations for injured individuals. While the recent change in law does more to protect vulnerable users in D.C., recovering financial compensation after an accident can quickly become complicated. Individuals recently involved in accidents should contact an experienced lawyer to assist in personal injury lawsuits.
Contact the Washington D.C. Personal Injury Lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC
If you have been injured in a Washington, D.C. car accident, you may be wondering what your options are for recovering from the other parties involved in the accident. Speak with the skilled attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC to help you learn more about your options. Call today at 800-654-1949 for a free consultation.