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Washington, D.C. Auto Accident Laws

Washington DC Auto Accident Laws and Resources

From the National Cathedral to the National Mall to the Kennedy Center, there are many miles of roads to check out in Washington DC. These busy roads are used by 400,000 licensed drivers who drive approximately 5700 miles per year. In such a busy part of the country, it is not surprising that there are thousands of serious and sometimes fatal car accidents in the nation’s capital. Whether you live in or work or are visiting this city, it is important to know about auto insurance laws, as well as the other laws and regulations for driving here. If you are in an accident, you will be prepared and know how to handle what comes next.

Statistics and Notable Car Accident Lawsuits

The DC Department of Motor Vehicles reports there are 450,000 drivers in the city, but millions of drivers commute into the city daily from Maryland and Virginia. These drivers, plus tourist drivers, mean millions more people are using the city’s roads every year.

Almost 12% of drivers in DC are without auto insurance, so be aware of this if you are in an accident. This is a good reason to be sure you carry ample uninsured motorist coverage. Also, DC has some of the highest auto insurance rates in the United States, with an average cost of $1773 per year.

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The NHTSA reports there were 23 fatal car accidents in DC in 2015. Of these fatal wrecks, six involved drunk or impaired driving and seven were due to excessive speed. Thirteen were killed in pedestrian accidents, and one died in a bicycle accident.

Still, even with these accidents, the city generally fares better than many states as far as traffic deaths per vehicle miles driven. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states 32,000 people died in fatal car accidents across America in 2014. But in DC, there were only 23 fatal deaths. With a population of 650,000, this is only 3.5 traffic deaths per population of 100,000 people. That is the lowest in the US. Meanwhile, Maryland has a death per 100,000 accident rates of 7.4 and in Virginia it is 8.4.

Also, 3.5 billion vehicle miles were driven in the District in 2014, and this represents a death rate of 0.65 per 100 million vehicle miles driven. In Virginia, this rate is higher at .87 and .78 in Maryland.

Single vehicle crashes tend to kill the most people in DC, with 157 killed in 2012. This is approximately 2/3 of all traffic deaths in the city from 2009 to 2011.

If you are planning to drive in DC soon, know that the intersection of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road Northeast is the most dangerous intersection for the city in 2017.

One of the major news stories involving personal injury lawsuits on DC roads in 2018 was the DC government paid out more than 1,000 settlements for 930 workers in the past five years. The city paid out a total of $4.3 million in car and other accident settlements from 2013 to 2017. The city has 6,000 vehicles on the street, according to recent data. Some of the employees have been in more than one accident in this period, but the city does not have a policy to discipline these employees.

Auto Insurance Requirements in Washington DC

The laws of Washington DC state you must have a minimum level of auto insurance. If you do not have this minimum amount, you can be fined.

The minimum level of insurance you must carry in Washington DC is:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury for each person in an accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury for all parties in an accident
  • $10,000 in property damage liability
  • $25,000 and $50,000 for uninsured motorist liability coverage
  • $5000 uninsured motorist property damage for each accident with $200 deductible

If you possess a lot of financial and property assets, you may want to carry additional insurance as you can be sued in an accident where you were liable.

It is important to know that Washington DC is a no-fault district. This means no matter who was at fault for the accident, your insurance policy will be used to cover your damages in an accident in most cases. However, no fault insurance does not provide funds for pain and suffering. That is why in this city, there is a 60-day election period where you can choose to use the no fault option or file a claim against the other driver. If you choose no fault, you cannot submit a claim later against the other driver, with a few rare exceptions.

The idea behind the no fault system is to give you some insurance protection even if you caused the accident. Another purpose is to free up the crowded claims courts by getting rid of small lawsuits and injury claims for minor accidents. No fault insurance will be paid to you directly by your own insurance provider for injuries and damages you sustained.

You may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit if your injuries are more than your personal injury protection coverage. It is important to choose correctly when deciding whether to use the no fault or fault option when you have an accident.

Washington DC Accident Settlement Taxes

If you have received a settlement on a personal injury case, you probably want to know how much of it is taxable by Washington DC and the federal government. Many people are surprised to discover that they may need to pay taxes on part of their settlement. Here are the general rules regarding personal injury settlement in Washington DC:

  • The IRS tax code states that people who get damages from suffering a personal PHYSICAL injury are note required to pay state, local or federal taxes. However, the tax code was changed to exclude damages such as emotional distress. If the injury is not visible, then you may need to pay taxes on that part of the award.
  • Medical expenses are not taxable. Even in a case where there was not a physical injury, payments for all medical expenses cannot be taxed. Medical expenses can include going to a psychologist, doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor.
  • The same tax rules apply to winning a judgment in court or reaching a settlement. But the IRS does give more flexibility for settlements; a taxpayer can have an effect upon how the settlement is taxed.
  • If you are awarded compensation only for mental pain and suffering, you can expect this full amount to be taxed.

Negligence Laws in Washington DC

If you are in a car accident in Washington DC, know that this city is one of the last supporters of contributory negligence law in the US. Under this harsh legal standard, if you were just 1% at fault in a serious car accident, you may be barred from any financial recovery in a lawsuit. This standard also applies in Virginia.

In most states and jurisdictions, if you were 10% at fault for the crash, your potential award would be reduced by 10%, but you could still collect some compensation for serious accident injuries.

Because of this strict legal standard, an insurance company or the other driver may try to accuse you for being partially at fault for the accident when you were not. It is important to retain a good attorney who is familiar with these deceptive legal tactics.

However, note that as of Nov. 26, 2016, the city made an exception for auto accidents involving pedestrians and bikers. Now there is a comparative negligence standard for these accident victims. So, if the pedestrian were 10% responsible for the accident and injuries, he could still recover damages in a lawsuit. This seems to be a good change because car on pedestrian and car on biker injuries tend to be very serious and sometimes fatal. For at least bikers and pedestrians, this puts DC law on the same footing as 46 other states. Bikers and pedestrians may sue for damages if they were less than 50% at fault. If they were 50% or more at fault, they are still barred from recovery.


Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Washington DC

According to DC law, if you were injured in a car accident, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. You also have three years if there was only property damage. If your loved one died in the DC accident and another person was liable for the crash, you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Other Washington DC Driving and Accident Laws

There are several new driving-related laws in this city to be aware of:

  • There is a complete ban on texting and driving for all drivers. If you live in Virginia or Maryland, be aware that you can be ticketed for this and other traffic violations in DC.
  • Washington DC also bans the use of handheld devices for all drivers.
  • There is a ban for all cell phones including hands free devices for beginner drivers.

Washington DC Car Accident Resources

If you have been in a car accident in Washington DC, this will probably be a stressful time for you. But use the helpful resources below to ensure you know what to do in the days that follow the crash.

  • If you were in a serious vehicle accident in Washington DC, you may have medical bills, lost wages and even pain and suffering. If so, you may be considering the filing of a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Lawsuit Info Center can be a very valuable resource for you. This website is free and can assist you in locating a competent personal injury attorney in Washington DC. Also, if you have been injured, you may wonder how much you might be able to recover in a settlement or verdict on a personal injury lawsuit. This website can be used to give you a rough idea on compensation as well.
  • If you were in a car accident with more than $200 in damages, you are required to file an accident report. This will be done for you if the police responded to the accident scene.
  • If you need to file an accident report for property damage in DC, you can do so with this form.


Washington, D.C. Car Accident Settlement Calculator:

Have you been involved in a motor vehicle accident or otherwise injured in Washington, D.C.? Find out how much financial compensation you may be legally entitled to in just minutes with our free online Injury Settlement Calculator.


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