Quickly Access DC Vehicle Accident Information
- What should I do after a car accident in DC?
- What is the insurance claims process like in Washington DC?
- When is it possible to sue a party for car accident damages?
- What are the common types of car accident injuries in DC?
- What types of damages can I seek compensation for after a car accident?
- How to determine fault in a DC motor vehicle accident
Dedicated Car Accident Attorneys Serving the People of the District of Columbia
The recovery process after involvement in a car accident can come with a lot of emotional strain. No matter the severity of the accident, colliding with another car can be a scary experience, especially if you’ve never been in an accident before. Despite the emotional toll that a car accident can take on a driver, they must still move forward. This means addressing the bodily injuries and property damage sustained in the collision. Injured drivers might question the options they have when seeking to recover from the damage created by the accident. If this is your situation, the skilled D.C. car accident attorney team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP can help you.
With over 30 years of experience working on behalf of injury victims and their families in and around the D.C. area, our law firm has gained many successful recoveries for those affected by the reckless actions of others on the road. To discuss the details of your accident claim with an experienced DC attorney, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.
When you sustain a car accident injury, it is important to look at the situation and ask whether you were the victim of negligence. Some of the most common types of car accident injuries, and the situations in which you may be at risk for sustaining these injuries include:
- Whiplash Whiplash is a car accident injury that occurs if your head moves backward and forward in rapid succession, which can happen easily in a rear or front collision.
- Bruises and scrapes Impact with the interior of the vehicle, including your seat belt, airbags, steering wheel, and doors, can cause abrasions and bruising. Severe abrasions may require surgery or skin grafts.
- Broken bones A high impact can break your bones. Healing a bone break can be a long, very painful experience.
- Brain injury If you strike your head against a surface in a car accident, you may be at risk for brain injury. A brain injury is not uncommon in drunk driving accidents, texting and driving accidents or SUV rollover accidents.
- Burns If a vehicle catches fire or explodes during an accident, occupants may be at risk for severe burns.
- Amputation A car accident can cause limb amputation by pinning or crushing arms and legs underneath the vehicle.
- Paralysis Severe car accidents often cause spinal cord injuries, which can lead to partial or complete paralysis. A car accident injury like this can cause serious alterations in a person’s life. A D.C. accident attorney can talk to you about the kind of compensation potentially available to an individual left paralyzed after a car accident caused by negligence.
Talk to an accident attorney about your car accident injury rights and the potential legal recourse to gain the compensation you deserve. Also if the accident was fatal compensation is available for wrongful death in DC as well. You can also learn what steps to take after a crash on our car accident resource page.
One way the insurance company and your legal representation will investigate what caused the accident is by identifying the accident type. While car accidents are sometimes caused by uncontrollable circumstances, such as product defects and bad weather, driver mistakes typically cause or contribute to a majority of accidents.
The following are some of the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents that we see and have handled in our practice:
- Failure to obey traffic signs and signals. When someone fails to yield, blows a stop sign or runs a red light, disaster can occur. An at-fault driver could strike a pedestrian or bicyclist, T-bone a vehicle in cross traffic or even collide head-on with an oncoming vehicle turning left in front of him or her, causing an accident.
- Intoxication. Using drugs or drinking alcohol before driving a car is a dangerous game, because these substances impair judgment, slow reaction time, decrease coordination and weaken the senses. If someone gets behind the wheel of a two-ton steel machine after indulging in mind-altering substances, he or she puts him or herself and everyone else on the road at risk of a serious or fatal car accident.
- Driver inattention. Drivers talking on cellphones, reading, texting, scolding their children, doing hair and makeup, eating or drinking are focusing on these tasks instead of their driving. Driver inattention can cause rear-end and head-on collisions, which even at seemingly low speeds can cause severe damage to both vehicles and passengers. In a distracted driving case, our firm was successful in gaining a $1.2 million settlement for the family of a 95-year-old pedestrian who was struck and killed by a driver attempting to use his cellphone while driving.
- Driver inexperience. Inexperienced drivers, such as teenagers, often cause car accidents because they may not know all the rules of the road and because when something goes wrong, they do not always know how to correct the problem or evade the danger.
- Aggressive driving. Aggressive driving is not just restricted to the phenomenon of “road rage.” Aggressive drivers tailgate, jump lanes, whip in and out of traffic, drive on the shoulder to pass traffic jams, honk their horns and flash their lights. Aggressive drivers are unpredictable and frequently cause motor vehicle accidents.
- Speeding. The higher your rate of speed, the more damage any accident will cause, both to the vehicles and to the passengers.
- Driver fatigue. Driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving while drunk, if not more so. Fatigue is common on long driving trips, and over-the-road commercial truck drivers frequently drive while sleepy to avoid missing deadlines. Driver fatigue is a leading cause of large truck accidents in the United States, and in fatal car accidents involving commercial trucks, the person driving the car is almost always the one who loses.
- Defective vehicles and vehicle component parts. Car accident litigation has instigated many changes in the way the automotive industry designs, markets and manufactures cars. However, many dangerous car defects that cause accidents still occur.
- Poor vehicle design. Many sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have stability issues that make them more likely to roll over in the event of a crash. SUV rollover accidents are under products liability law. Although the introduction of electronic stability control systems has helped to reduce the risk of rollover, these accidents continue to cause serious injuries and deaths throughout the United States. When a design flaw contributes to an SUV rollover accident, the manufacturer may be legally liable.
Drivers that file for car accident injury may seek compensation for the following damages:
- Immediate medical expenses, including initial examination, emergency services (urgent care/ambulance rides), surgery, and treatment.
- Recurring medical expenses, including prescription medication, physical therapy, and applicable medical equipment.
- Lost wages to account for time spent in recovery.
- Diminished ability to earn money, if the accident resulted in chronic disability.
- Therapy/family therapy
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
Washington DC personal injury claims differ from insurance claims and PIP in that they’re the only avenue available to recover for emotional damages. Consulting with an attorney will give you a clear idea of what damages you can claim when you file. This also gives your lawyer the opportunity to come up with a ballpark settlement figure to refer to during settlement negotiations.
An injured person may face months, years or a lifetime of costly medical treatment, counseling and attendant care. Some may even need home modifications, medical equipment, constant supervision or lifelong hospitalization if their accidents left them with permanent disabilities.
If you are facing an increasing amount of medical bills, seeking a lawsuit against the other motorist may allow you to recover damages to help pay for your past and future medical treatment as well as provide any other compensation for expenses related to your injuries and the accident.
Washington, D.C. is no-fault.
This means that each driver’s car insurance and/or accompanying liability insurance is responsible for paying off the driver’s damages. No-fault states also require their drivers to possess personal injury protection (PIP), which is an additional form of insurance that covers accident-related lost wages and medical bills once their base insurance is completely exhausted.
Calling your insurance company initiates the claims process, launching the investigation into your accident. Either law enforcement or the insurance company designates a percentage-based fault rating reflective of both drivers’ roles in the accident.
Because Washington D.C. practices pure contributory negligence, a driver’s fault rating impacts their ability to seek compensation for the accident through additional means. The “pure” aspect of the contributory negligence statute dictates that drivers with a fault rating of more than 5% cannot recover for their damages via injury lawsuit.
What is “negligence per se” and why does it matter in Washington, DC Car Accident Claims?
The negligence per se doctrine allows you to win a negligence claim merely by proving that the defendant violated a safety law and that the violation caused the accident. In other words, violation of a safety law is considered automatic negligence in D.C.
Because Washington D.C. practices pure contributory negligence, it clearly divides drivers into plaintiff and defendant. If a driver possesses less than 5% in contributory fault, they can file a claim against the at-fault driver through their local small claims court. From here, the process reflects a typical fault-based settlement scenario.
During the claims process, you will be in contact with the other driver’s claims adjusters who must negotiate your settlement figure. These claims adjusters will investigate your case, making the evidence you provide vital. Settlement negotiation can take anywhere from several days to several weeks depending on factors like: the details of the accident, new evidence, ongoing medical treatment, and failing to come to an agreement. If you reach an agreement, you should expect to receive your settlement award in two-to-four weeks.
In the event that you do not come to an agreement, you may bring the case to trial. However, many insurance companies try to avoid this.
What should I do after an Auto Accident in Washington, D.C.?
After a collision, it might take several minutes to gather your thoughts. Once you’ve checked for physical injury and have safely exited the vehicle, take these four important steps:
1. Seek medical attention – The most important step after a car wreck is to make sure everyone involved is ok. Check yourself and any passengers for apparent injuries and then check on other drivers. Your health is more important than finding legal counsel immediately after an accident occurs. So make sure you seek treatment right away, even before contacting a lawyer.
2. Move to a safe area. If no one is seriously injured, you should move your vehicles to a safe place out of the path of moving traffic and:
- Turn on hazard lights or use flares to ensure that oncoming traffic can see the vehicles involved
- Notify the police of the accident, even if it seems to be minor
- Take photographs of the accident if you have a camera available
3. Call the police – If either driver involved in the accident sustained injury, or moderate property damage occurred, call law enforcement. Request emergency medical services if you or the other driver need immediate medical attention. While waiting for an officer to arrive, do not leave the accident scene. The law considers leaving before an officer arrives a misdemeanor equitable to a hit-and-run offense.
4. Once the officer arrives, give your statement clearly. The report that the officer files is your first form of evidence in any claims process. You can request a copy of your accident’s police report from a local police station, several days after the accident.
5. Exchange information – While waiting for law enforcement, exchange information with the other driver. Gathering as much information as possible at the accident scene will help in reporting the accident claim. Information you should collect includes:
- The location, date and time of the accident
- The names and contact information of all parties involved, including witnesses
- The make and model of all cars involved
- Any injuries sustained in the car accident
- Insurance information for the other driver(s) involved in the accident
- Their vehicle identification number (VIN)
- All license plate numbers
In some states, it is illegal not to exchange information with a driver involved in a collision. Though D.C. falls under a no-fault statute, this information is vital in determining fault and contacting the other driver’s insurance company if you qualify to file a lawsuit.
6. Gather evidence – Even if you don’t intend to press legal charges, always gather evidence. This helps paint a clear picture for your insurance company when you file your claim. After an accident, look for nearby witnesses and ask for their contact information even if you think they’ll decline. Take pictures of the accident scene and the damage done to your vehicle. The more, fresh evidence you gather for your claim, the stronger your case will be when the insurance company assigns a fault percentage to each party.
7. Call your insurance company – Insurance companies expect you to report an accident after a “reasonable” amount of time. Because this is ambiguous, many lawyers advise drivers to file their claim as soon as they’re well enough to call. Some drivers prefer to contact an attorney before calling their insurance company to establish a clear record of the accident just in case they ask for a statement.
If You Didn’t Call the Police…
File an accident report – Washington D.C. requires all drivers involved in an accident to file some form of accident report with the Metropolitan Police Department. You must report the accident by phone to the appropriate agency. Filing an additional accident report is not necessary if you previously called law enforcement at the scene of the accident, as long as they made it to the scene filed their own report.
It Takes Skill to Enforce a Washington, D.C. Car Accident Injury Claim
Even when you negotiate a private settlement with an insurance company, all bargaining takes place “in the shadow of the law” – if the insurance company doesn’t believe you can win at trial, it will not be motivated to settle with you. Unfortunately, an attitude adjustment is often required to stimulate an insurance company to come forward with a serious offer.
At Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP, attitude adjustment is our business, as it has been for the past 35 years – personal injury law is the only type of law that our car accident injury lawyers practice. It is easy to tout ourselves as “good at what we do” – anybody can say that. What anybody can’t do, however, is what we have already done – bring home close to $1 billion in compensation for our clients over the years.
We Don’t Collect Legal Fees from You Unless You Win Compensation
We charge our legal fees as a percentage of how much you end up being awarded. That means no upfront fees, and no legal fees ever unless we win compensation for you. Our personal injury lawyers can afford to do this because we win compensation for the overwhelming majority of our clients.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
Who you choose to represent you might well turn out to be the most important decision you make in your entire case. The second most important decision could be when you get started. The sooner you start, the longer we will have to negotiate a settlement and prepare for trial if necessary. The longer you wait, the more witness memories will fade and other evidence will deteriorate.
You needn’t be overly concerned about a lengthy and stressful trial – well over 90 percent of our clients bring home a private settlement rather than a courtroom verdict. If you have been injured in a car accident in D.C., call us at (202) 659-5500 or simply contact us online for a free, no-obligation case evaluation with an experienced Washington, D.C. car accident attorney.