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Washington D.C. Car Accidents: What You Need to Know

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The land of our forefathers and governmental affairs is also the land of many vehicles and, consequently, many car accidents. Washington D.C. is a bustling city where people travel to and from work, school, out to eat, and where tourists drive in to visit the historical monuments dedicated to the history of our country. If you live in or near Washington D.C., your chances of getting in an accident are higher than you might think.

Many accidents are small, like a fender bender, and lead to nothing more than inconvenience and possibly a sizeable car repair bill. But, other accidents are more serious and you could be injured in a way that affects you for the rest of your life. Whether your accident is minor or major, speaking with an experienced auto accident attorney may be in your best interest.

At DuBoff & Associates, Chartered, we’ve served countless people who have been involved in car accidents in Washington D.C. and Maryland. Our experience has taught us that even in a seemingly minor accident, an attorney is often necessary. The severity of the damage done to your car does not determine the severity of your injuries: a rear-end collision that simply dents your bumper can result in a neck injury that hampers your mobility and causes pain for months, or even years, after the accident. On the other end of the spectrum, there are times when a vehicle is completely totaled in an accident and the driver walks away with little to no injury.

In seemingly minor accidents we know that many people hesitate to speak with an attorney because they don’t feel like their injuries are serious enough. But, keep in mind that car accident injuries are sometimes fickle and may take days or even weeks to present real symptoms. The sooner you reach out to an attorney, the sooner you’ll be able to determine the claims you can bring against the driver who caused your injury. A car accident injury can result in high medical bills and loss of wages, and if someone else is at fault for that injury then you likely deserve compensation.

If you’ve been in a car accident in Washington D.C., you might be wondering what to do next. Whether your accident was major or minor, whether there are injuries or not, a car accident can be confusing and scary—especially if you’ve never been in one before. Car accident law in Washington D.C. is a little different than in many other states, and it’s important to have a basic understanding of what that might mean for you.

First, if you’re involved in a car accident in D.C. and you have car insurance in the district then you should know that any injury claim you make will start with your own car insurance carrier, under your own policy. Why? Because D.C. follows a no-fault system which in most cases prevents you from making a claim against another driver. No-fault law does not account for fault in the accident when car accident claims are filed. This means that in D.C., when you file a claim with your car insurance company after an accident, it often won’t go any farther than that. But, there are exceptions to the no-fault policy in D.C.

You may step outside the confines of the no-fault system in D.C. if the damages in your accident meet one or both of these two thresholds:

  • If your claim (the cost of medical expenses and loss of income for your injury) exceeds the limits of you personal injury protect (PIP) policy, which is often part of a car insurance policy.
  • If your injuries include significant permanent scarring, disfigurement, impairment, or total impairment lasting 180 days or more.

In these cases, you are permitted to pursue and claim outside your own insurance coverage and gain compensation from the truly at-fault party. But, if you are in either of these situations, having a lawyer on your side to discuss your options and develop the best course of action for filing a claim is important. Without professional legal assistance it might be difficult to prove on your own that an at-fault claim is necessary for your case.

Another important thing to now about Washington D.C. car accident law is how being partially at fault for the accident might affect your case. In most states, when a driver is partially at fault for the accident, he or she can still get compensation from other at-fault drivers even though the recoverable damages may be reduced. But, there is a stricter rule in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is one of the last places in the nation to follow a “contributory negligence” rules. Under this law, you can only recover compensation in a personal injury lawsuit if you bear no fault at all in causing the accident that injured you.

For example, you’ve been injured in a crash with one other driver and you take the case to court. Based on your records, let’s say the jury determines that your losses from the crash—including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all other damages—add up to a hefty $100,000. But, the investigation of the accident determines that you are 10 percent at-fault for the accident. Under the contributory negligence rule, the mere 10 percent of fault means the amount of compensation for your personal damages drops to zero.

The contributory negligence rule is hard to beat, but having a skilled auto accident attorney on your case might mean the difference between no compensation and the compensation you deserve. If you’ve been in a car accident in Washington D.C., don’t hesitate to contact the car accident lawyers at DuBoff & Associates, Chartered. We have more than fifty years of combined experience handling personal injury and auto accident lawsuits in D.C. and Maryland. We will handle your case with the compassion and determination it deserves.

 

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