The End of Contributory Negligence in D.C.?

Unless you have been injured and consulted with a personal injury lawyer, you likely have no idea that you may live in a jurisdiction that makes recovering for your injuries harder than almost anywhere else in the United States.  Why is that?  Because D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are three of only five jurisdictions in America that still use something called contributory negligence to determine if you can recover against the person or people that injured you.  Essentially, if you are found to be even 1% at fault for your injuries, you may be unable to recover anything for the damages you have suffered.  This means that if a jury thinks you should have seen the dangerous ice in the parking lot that your grocery store ignored and did not warn you about before you slipped, or that you should have noticed the distracted driver on his cell phone before you started crossing the street in the crosswalk, you could get nothing in compensation for the pain and expenses from your injuries.  D.C., Maryland, and Virginia need to catch up to the rest of the country and get rid of this draconian system.  Luckily, the first strike against contributory negligence has been launched in the District of Columbia.

The D.C. Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 became law in the District of Columbia effective November 26, 2016.  This law eliminates the harsh contributory negligence standard for cyclists, pedestrians, or users of other non-motorized devices (like skateboards) involved in a collision with a vehicle, replacing it with a fairer comparative negligence standard.  This means that now pedestrians or cyclists in the District that are injured in an incident with a vehicle can recover for their injuries as long as they were less at fault than the vehicle or vehicles that hit them or caused their injuries.   Simply put, if you were 50% or less at fault you can now get compensated for your injuries.  This is a great win for injury victims and a refreshing move towards a more just system of compensation for injury victims in D.C.

This act only applies to pedestrians, cyclists, and users of other non-motorized devices.  So think twice about riding that motorized scooter to work instead of riding your bike or walking.  It is healthier for you, and now you have extra protections under the law should a car run a red light and hit you – which sadly happens too often. We hope that those of us who drive, ride motorcycles, scooters or even mechanized skateboards will soon enjoy these same protections.  Once the fairness of this new system is apparent, we expect this will be a harbinger of greater change that will protect more citizens of D.C., Maryland and Virginia and lead to the end of contributory negligence in our region.

If you have been injured in a vehicle collision, whether as a pedestrian, cyclist, or otherwise, the attorneys at Posey Lebowitz are happy to speak with you about your rights to compensation.  There are important things to know about your rights and dealing with insurance companies after an accident and speaking to a lawyer quickly can dramatically help your claim.  Initial consultations are always free so give us a call today.