Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Laws and Statutory Rules

Legal Article

Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Laws and Statutory Rules

The District of Columbia has state specific laws focused on personal injury such as the statute of limitations, no-fault car insurance, and injuries that lead to strict liability. If you have been injured in D.C. from the reckless or negligent actions of another individual or business, it is vital that you understand the following rules before starting your personal injury case.

D.C. Lawsuit Time Limits

Statute of limitations refers to how long after being injured you have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the individual or business that caused your injuries. In the District of Columbia, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is three years. Further, this time period most commonly starts on the date of the incident that led to your injuries. It is vital that you file a lawsuit with the D.C. court system before the three-year time period is up, as after this period closes, you will likely not be able to receive compensation for your injuries.

“Shared” Fault in Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia uses a contributory fault rule that applies when a claimant or plaintiff shares some of the fault for the accident that resulted in the injury. Contributory fault can be especially harsh as it prevents the injured person from recovering damages if they are found to be at fault for their injuries in anyway.

For example, say you are crossing the street during a red light while looking at your phone. Even if a car runs into you, causing you serious injuries, being on your phone could lead the court to find that you were 5 – 10 percent at fault. Under the District’s contributory fault law, if the court finds that you were even 1 percent at fault for your injuries, you will not be able to collect damages from the other parties. D.C. courts must use contributory fault in personal injury cases where the injured individual may be at fault. However, this state specific rule may occur in insurance settlement negotiations.

D.C. “No-Fault” Car Insurance System

In the District of Columbia, the auto insurance system is “no-fault”. This system means that drivers must typically ask their own insurance companies for compensation regardless of who caused the accident. Further, D.C. drivers can only diverge from the “no-fault” system if one of the following applies to their case.

  • substantial, permanent disfigurement or scarring
  • substantial and medically demonstrable impairment in performing daily activities
  • medically demonstrable impairment that prevents the injured person from performing daily activities for at least 180 days, or
  • medical bills that exceed the limits of all applicable no-fault insurance policies.

“Strict” Liability for Dog Bite/ Attack Cases

In most states, dog owners are protected from injury liability if their dog bites or otherwise injures someone when the owner had no reason to believe that the animal was dangerous. However, this only applies to the first time the dog bites someone. In the District of Columbia however, a specific statute (D.C. Code Ann. § 8-1812) makes the owner “strictly liable,” meaning regardless of the animal’s past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog.

Injury Claims Against the Government

If the District of Columbia government or one of its employees caused your injury—or played a role in your injury—you must follow a different set of rules if you want to get compensation. In D.C., you have six months to notify the government that they injured you and file a formal claim with them.

Statutory References

Title 13 (civil court procedure) and Title 50  (motor vehicle laws) of the D.C. Code provide more on laws related to the most common D.C. personal injury cases.

Contact Our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more on Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding personal injury law, check out our blog.