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District of Columbia Car Accident Compensation Laws

Washington D.C. is, without debate, a commuter city. Each day, hundreds of thousands of people drive into our nation's capital for work -- and if they're lucky, a hockey or baseball game afterwards. By some estimates, the population swells by 79 percent each day when the commuters come to town. With all these cars on the road, traffic and accidents are far more likely than they are in the surrounding rural areas. It 's important, then, for D.C. residents and commuters alike to be familiar with District of Columbia car accident compensation laws -- just in case.

Below, you'll find a chart laying out key elements of D.C.'s car accident compensation laws.  

Statute of Limitations

Three years from date of accident (DC Stat. 12-301)

Limits on Damages

Non-permanent injuries are covered by the state's PIP insurance laws. (DC Stat. 31-2401 et. Seq.)

Other Limits

Six months to file a claim for personal injury against D.C. (DC Stat. 12-309)

'No Fault' and 'Contributory Negligence' Rules Apply

D.C. is one of the rare jurisdictions that has "no fault" car insurance and accident compensation laws. If you get into an accident in Washington D.C., you'll have to file a claim with your own insurance first, under "personal injury protection (PIP)" coverage, for your injuries resulting from an accident.

However, if the injuries are severe and permanent, you can file a claim against the other driver, and if necessary, a lawsuit. Further, if your personal injury damages exceed your policy, you may also be able to recover the difference from either the other driver or her insurance company. If you are making a claim for damage to your car, "no fault" does not apply, and you will file a claim with the other driver's insurance.

If you do file a claim with the other party's insurance, or proceed to file a lawsuit, note that Washington D.C. also applies another unpopular legal standard: contributory negligence. This hardline rule states that, if you contribute at all to an accident -- even one percent at fault, such as by speeding, you are barred from collecting damages from the other driver. The harsh results that can come from this rule are why it is so unpopular -- and why having a great attorney at hand is even more important if you get into a Washington D.C. car accident.

Limits on Damages

The primary obstacles to a car accident claim in D.C. are found in the previously addressed "no fault" and contributory negligence rules. Beyond that, there is a strict time limit (Statute of Limitations) for filing a legal case, and if you miss it, your claim will be barred. In Washington D.C., you have three years to file a lawsuit for either personal injury claims beyond your own insurance coverage or for damage to your vehicle. If the claim involves a government party, that time limit shrinks to only six months.

Get a Claim Review from a D.C. Car Accident Attorney

D.C.'s use of unusual "no fault" and contributory negligence rules may limit your ability to get compensation for a car accident, as will the time limits for filing a claim if you miss them. With such major obstacles, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced car accident attorney before filing a claim or missing a deadline. Obtain a claim evaluation from a car accident attorney to learn more.

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