The District of Columbia is a major population center. As a result, its roads are often crowded.
High traffic density can translate to a high rate of traffic accidents. Drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and all others who use the road must exercise caution accordingly.
Unfortunately, you could be harmed in an accident resulting from the negligence of another driver. Hopefully, this will never happen.
A District of Columbia car accident lawyer may help if it already has. With a lawyer's assistance, you may recover financial compensation after a collision.
What do you do in a car accident in DC?
Have you been injured in an auto accident in the District of Columbia? If so, you may be able to seek compensation for various losses resulting from your accident. Common examples include medical bills, lost wages or non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
The District of Columbia uses the "no-fault" system when car accident victims seek financial compensation. This means you may file a claim with your own insurance after an accident if you purchased auto insurance offering personal injury protection benefits.
This is the case even if someone else caused the crash. Your own insurer is still responsible for compensating you.
However, it's important to understand that insurance companies are businesses. Your insurer might not readily offer the full amount of compensation you deserve when you file a claim. Their goal is to lose as little money as possible.
This is one of many reasons it's wise to enlist the help of a District of Columbia car accident lawyer. An attorney can account for your various losses to determine how much compensation you may be eligible to recover.
Be aware that a lawyer can't promise you will settle for a specific sum of money. This isn't ethical. What a qualified District of Columbia car accident attorney can do is negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
Additionally, the District of Columbia's no-fault system is somewhat unique when compared to that of other states. In the District of Columbia, drivers have the option to purchase fault-based coverage. Such drivers would thus seek compensation after accidents by filing claims with the insurers of the negligent parties responsible for causing their accidents.
A driver who hasn't purchased fault-based insurance has 60 days from the time of their accident to let their insurer know whether they will choose to receive personal injury protection benefits or pursue compensation by filing a claim or lawsuit against a negligent party.
An accident victim who does choose to receive personal injury protection benefits might still have the option to file a civil action to pursue additional compensation from a negligent party who caused their injuries. They may do so only if their injuries are severe enough to meet certain criteria.
You may not be familiar enough with the applicable laws to determine if your injuries are severe enough to justify filing a civil action. Consulting with an attorney can help answer your questions.
A District of Columbia car accident attorney can answer your questions and help you better sort through your legal options. A District of Columbia car accident lawyer can specifically help by:
- Determining what type of coverage you have.
- Investigating your accident to identify the liable parties if you're considering filing an action against them.
- Gathering evidence proving you were injured as a result of the liable parties' negligence.
- Determining if your injuries are severe enough to warrant filing a civil action after receiving personal injury protection benefits.
Hiring a District of Columbia car accident attorney will also relieve you of certain burdens during a challenging time. After being hurt in a car accident, you shouldn't have to devote energy to pursuing compensation. A lawyer can handle your claim while you focus on making a swift recovery.
District of Columbia Overview
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Highway Safety Office tracks crash data in the District of Columbia. Its most recent report indicates that 18,287 motor vehicle accidents occurred in the District of Columbia in 2020.
(Note: All data for 2020 is preliminary.)
Additional findings include:
- 13,472 crashes resulted in property damage in 2020.
- 354 District of Columbia crashes in 2020 resulted in serious injury.
- An average of 2,688 injuries were sustained as a result of motor vehicle accidents every year in the District of Columbia between the years 2016 and 2020.
- 36 fatalities occurred as a result of accidents in 2020.
- Approximately 54% of people injured in District of Columbia crashes are drivers or occupants of cars.
- Pedestrians account for 16.9% of injuries.
- Bicyclists account for 12.4% of injuries.
- Motorcyclists account for 3.3% of injuries.
- Accidents involving commercial motor vehicles (such as large trucks) account for 2.4% of all injuries.
- 10.9% of injuries are accounted for by users of mopeds, Segways, and scooters.
The report also includes findings on the causes of accidents. Important points to be aware of include:
- Alcohol impairment is a factor in 27% of all traffic fatalities in the District of Columbia.
- The vast majority of accidents resulting in harm occur between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.
- Accidents resulting from impaired driving are most likely to occur on Saturday and Sunday.
- Most accidents resulting from impaired driving involve motorists between the ages of 26 and 30.
- Speeding/aggressive driving is a factor in 52% of all District of Columbia motor vehicle accidents.
- Most accidents resulting from speeding or aggressive driving occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon.
Data also reveals District of Columbia car accidents resulting in loss of life are on the rise. This is the case in most other parts of the country too.
Experts believe the Covid-19 pandemic has played a role in these trends. During the worst days of the pandemic, roads were much less crowded than they usually are. It appears drivers responded to these new driving conditions by speeding more often, using seat belts less often, and more. It's possible these unsafe driving behaviors haven't changed even though traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels.
Your District of Columbia car accident attorney doesn't need to prove your accident resulted from someone's negligence if you only choose to receive personal injury protection benefits from your own insurance. They do need to prove negligence if they wish to recover compensation from a liable party.
The four elements of a negligence claim are:
- Duty of care: Someone can only be found negligent if they had a duty of care to the injured victim. Proving someone had a duty of care to you if you've been hurt in a car accident is fairly basic. All motorists have a duty to not put drivers, pedestrians, and others with whom they share the road in harm's way.
- Breach: A breach occurs when someone breaks a traffic law or doesn't exercise the reasonable care a person is expected to exercise when driving. For example, speeding is a breach of one's duty on the road. However, fiddling with vehicle controls and not paying enough attention to the road could also be considered a breach.
- Cause: Someone can technically be negligent without actually causing an accident. Thus, your lawyer must gather evidence showing your accident occurred due to another party's carelessness.
- Damages: The final element of a negligence claim involves showing you incurred losses for which you may be compensated.
Such losses may come in a variety of forms. Your District of Columbia car accident lawyer may begin accounting for your damages by adding up your economic losses.
These often consist of medical bills. If you've been injured in a car accident, your injuries likely require treatment. You can seek compensation accordingly so you don't have to pay for this treatment yourself.
Your injuries could also prevent you from doing your job. This might result in lost income. Your lawyer will also factor this in when adding up your economic losses.
Accounting for your economic losses might even involve accounting for losses you'll incur in the future. This might be something a District of Columbia car accident attorney would consider if you will need ongoing medical care throughout your life. Estimating future losses might also be necessary if your injuries will prevent you from returning to work indefinitely.
Some victims of car accidents can also seek compensation for non-economic damages. These are losses that don't have an exact dollar value.
A common example is pain and suffering. You might endure physical, mental, and emotional pain as a result of an accident.
Your pain might not have an exact financial cost in the way that your medical bills do. Still, you may deserve to receive compensation for it if your accident resulted from negligence.
Assigning a dollar value to such non-economic losses requires training and experience. This is another task a District of Columbia car accident attorney can complete on your behalf.
Negligence Per Se in the District of Columbia
Certain laws exist to ensure the protection of citizens in the District of Columbia. For example, laws against drunk driving exist because they protect motorists and pedestrians.
Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that holds that a defendant is automatically found negligent if they broke such a law. Proving someone who injured you in a crash was negligent is a fairly simple task for a District of Columbia car accident lawyer if the other party was breaking a law meant to keep others out of harm's way.
That said, traffic safety laws vary throughout the country. Something illegal in one state might not be illegal in the District of Columbia.
A District of Columbia car accident attorney will be familiar with the traffic laws that apply to your case. They can determine if someone who caused your accident was clearly negligent because they were breaking the law at the time of the crash.
Many factors influence whether you can seek compensation from a liable party's insurance after an accident in the District of Columbia. They include:
- The type of insurance you've purchased
- Whether you choose to receive personal injury protection benefits
- The severity of your injuries
Whether your own negligence played a role in causing your accident is another such factor.
It's not always one person's fault when someone is injured in a car accident. Sometimes, even a victim can be partially responsible for their own injuries.
For example, you approach a stop sign. After stopping for a moment, you make a right turn at the intersection. You're suddenly struck mid-turn by a speeding and intoxicated driver.
According to negligence per se, that driver is clearly negligent in this scenario. They were breaking the law by speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol.
However, maybe it's shown that you should have spotted the driver approaching before you decided to make the turn. Maybe you didn't take the time to thoroughly check for oncoming traffic before turning at the stop sign. Or, maybe you saw the driver but decided to make the turn instead of realizing they were driving too fast to avoid an accident if you were to pull in front of them.
It's possible to argue in this scenario that you could have prevented your accident had you not been careless. In the District of Columbia, if your own negligence at all played a role in your accident, you can't recover compensation from a liable party. A District of Columbia car accident lawyer can discuss how this law may affect your case when reviewing the circumstances of your accident.
However, there are exceptions when accident victims aren't motorists. For example, if you're injured as a pedestrian or other such "vulnerable user" of a public highway or sidewalk, the contributory negligence law doesn't apply. Such victims can seek compensation from liable parties if they are less than 50% responsible for causing their own accidents.
These details further highlight how complex the District of Columbia's motor vehicle accident laws can be. They also highlight the value of seeking legal representation. A District of Columbia car accident lawyer can help you navigate your case if there are questions about whether you caused your own accident in any shape or form.
Car Accident Statistics in the District of Columbia's Top 5 Wards
The District of Columbia consists of eight "wards." Residents of each ward can vote for a council member to represent them in the overall D.C. Council.
As of 2022, Ward 6 is the most populous. It's home to approximately 99,652 people.
The most recent DDOT data for accident rates in each ward shows that a total of 2,497 collisions occurred in Ward 6 in 2016. These accidents resulted in 754 injuries.
The population of Ward 2 is slightly lower than that of Ward 6. It has a population of 89,518 as of 2022.
Its accident rate is much higher. Data shows that 4,519 accidents happened in Ward 2 in 2017. As a result, 1,143 injuries were sustained.
Ward 1 is home to 88,846 people in 2022. Its population is close to that of Ward 2's.
Like Ward 6, Ward 1 sees fewer accidents. A total of 1,169 accidents occurred in Ward 1 in 2017. About 456 injury cases were the result of these accidents.
The next-most-populous ward is Ward 5. Its 2022 population is 86,794 people.
Like Ward 2, Ward 5 has a high accident rate. In 2017, 3,004 crashes occurred in Ward 5, and 1,126 injuries were sustained due to these crashes.
Ward 4 has a population of 83,996 in 2022. It saw 1,824 accidents in 2017, resulting in 688 injuries.
You may be able to collect financial compensation if you've been injured in an auto accident. A District of Columbia car accident attorney can help you navigate the system. Find a District of Columbia car accident lawyer today to get started.