Our nation's capital is the destination for hundreds of thousands of car commuters every day. With all of those drivers on the road, accidents are bound to happen. If you were injured in a car accident, prepare yourself for a complicated labyrinth of negligence laws which apply different standards depending on your mode of transportation at the time of the accident. If an insurance company is offering to settle your claim, or if you would like to avoid a full trial, first take a look at the District of Columbia car accident settlement process and timeline.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in D.C.?
You must report any car accident which results in personal injury or death under D.C. Code § 50-1001 to the D.C. police. When the officer arrives and writes up a report (officially known as an "Accident Report (PD-10)"), be sure to make note of the six-digit identifying number (also known as the CCN) of the report. If you did not get the CCN at the time of the accident, you may call the station of the police district which initially responded to your call.
D.C. Car Insurance Laws
Under D.C. Code § 31-2406, drivers are required to carry liability coverage in the following amounts:
You also are required to carry uninsured motorist protection, but you only need $5,000 for property damage and a $200 deductible is permitted. Insurance providers also offer "no fault" insurance coverage, allowing drivers to recover compensation for their injuries from their own policies without having to first prove who was at fault for the accident.
If you were injured by a car but you were walking or riding a bike at the time of the accident, the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 allows you to recover up to 100 percent of your damages even if you were up to 50 percent at fault for the accident. If you were driving a car at the time of your accident, the harsher "contributory negligence" standard applies. This means that you cannot recover any compensation if you were even 1 percent at fault for the accident.
How do Car Accident Settlements Work in D.C.?
A settlement is a contract between two or more parties agreeing to dismiss a pending lawsuit and award damages. A case may be settled at any point before the jury returns with a verdict.
Under D.C. Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure, all parties must participate in a mandatory settlement conference. Settlements are either lump-sum or structured.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in D.C.?
Every car accident is different, and the complicated fault rules in D.C. only make it tougher to predict how much you can expect to receive in a settlement. Even if you have no fault insurance coverage, if you were seriously injured in an accident you will likely need to sue the driver at fault to fully recover for your injuries. Before you accept any settlement offer, be sure that the amount is sufficient to compensate you for:
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in D.C.?
Under D.C. Code § 12-301, you have up to three years to file a car accident lawsuit. The limit is the same whether you suffered personal injury, such as whiplash or a broken bone, or property damage, such as the deployment of your airbags or a broken tail light.
Let a D.C. Attorney Help You With the Car Accident Settlement Process
Few people are truly prepared for the time and expense of a trial -- in fact, most cases settle long before the first witness would have been sworn in. But settlements present their own challenges. D.C. negligence laws are incredibly complicated and if you don't have legal representation, the at fault driver's insurance company may offer you significantly less than your claim is worth. If you were injured in a car accident, consider contacting a Washington, D.C. accident attorney today.