A car accident is one of the most frightening experiences someone can have, but it doesn’t end with the accident itself. After a car wreck, the victim will have significant medical expenses, lost time from work, and many other issues to deal with. If the accident was someone else’s fault, you’re wondering what your next step should be, and who will pay for your losses.
If you are looking for an auto accident attorney in Washington, D.C., the personal injury attorneys of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP have helped countless victims get the compensation they deserve after an auto accident. We’re ready to fight for you today.
What You Should Do After A Car Accident In DC?
#1 Seek Medical Attention
Your priority after you or a loved one has been in an auto accident is to seek medical attention. This is true even if the injuries seem minor or you don’t think anyone has been hurt. Many car accident injuries may be minor but often, they get progressively worse in the hours and days that follow. Even if the wreck seems like nothing more than a fender bender, let a doctor make the final call.
This is also important so you can preserve your right to compensation. Accident victims who fail to see a doctor immediately after a wreck can inadvertently jeopardize their claims. Delaying medical treatment gives the driver an excuse to argue that something other than the accident might have injured you, and that can spell disaster for your claim.
#2 File a Police Report
Call 911 to report your injuries, get the treatment you need, and make a police report. The police report will contain valuable information about the accident that will prove useful, such as time, date, and weather conditions. You or your attorney can obtain a copy of the report later.
#3 Document Everything
Next, start documenting everything you can about the accident and your injuries. The police report and your medical records are a good place to start. You will also want to make your notes about the events leading up to the accident. If there were any witnesses, get their names and contact information. They can also help document what happened.
#4 Talk to a Lawyer
Finally, contact an experienced Washington, D.C. car accident attorney. Your attorney will walk you through the process of filing a claim against the responsible driver and what sort of damages you may be eligible for.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident in DC?
If you get hurt or your property gets damaged in a car accident in Washington DC, you usually have 3 years to sue for compensation. This three-year deadline starts on the date of the accident. This deadline is called the “statute of limitations. ” If someone dies in a car crash, their family has less time to sue (two years from the time of death).
How Do I Prove The Other Driver Was Liable?
Car accidents come in many forms, from rear-end crashes and sideswipes to multi-vehicle collisions and pile-ups. No matter the nature of your accident, you will need to prove that the other driver was negligent to recover damages. These are a few things you’ll have to show to establish negligence:
- Duty of care. The responsible driver (defendant) must owe the victim (plaintiff) a duty of care. That usually means the defendant had an obligation to drive safely. This element is not generally contested.
- Breach. Car accident claims are largely focused on whether the driver breached his or her duty of care. Some negligent acts or omissions can give rise to a breach, such as texting while driving or failure to slow down during inclement weather. The breach is typically the most disputed aspect of an auto accident case.
- Causation. Next, the plaintiff has to show that the breach caused the accident. If another party was responsible for the accident, then the defendant will not be held liable. There are even cases in which the driver’s negligence can void their claim.
- Damages. The extent of the victim’s losses will be the final element of the case. These are known as damages, which also tend to be disputed.
What Damages Might Be Available?
Every car accident is different, but they all come down to the nature and amount of damage the victim suffered. Most car accidents involve the following damages:
- Medical bills, including hospitalization, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and special adaptive equipment
- Lost wages due to the time missed from work for recovery, medical appointments, etc.
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- Wrongful death damages in the event the victim dies
Establishing these damages usually requires the input of expert witnesses. These are professionals who specialize in medical, scientific, economic, and other fields that relate to your injuries. For example, an expert witness can project the amount of future earnings you will lose because your injuries cut short your career prospects.
Getting damages right the first time is essential. After your case goes to trial or settles out of court, you don’t get to ask for more money if it turns out your injuries are more severe than initially thought. That’s why it’s critical to have a knowledgeable Washington D.C. car accident lawyer in your corner.
No-Fault Accident Laws in Washington DC
Washington DC has a unique hybrid no-fault auto insurance system. Drivers must purchase minimum fault-based coverage, but can also buy optional no-fault personal injury protection (PIP).
PIP covers medical bills and lost wages after an accident. Within 60 days of a crash, PIP policyholders can choose to collect no-fault benefits rather than pursue a claim against the at-fault driver.
No-Fault Laws & Serious Injuries
If you choose no-fault benefits after an accident in DC, you usually can’t get compensation from the at-fault driver. But you may still be able to if your injuries are very serious.
To meet the severity thresholds, your medical bills from the accident need to be more than your no-fault coverage limit. Or you need to have major permanent scarring or disfigurement. Your injury may also qualify if it’s considered severe under DC law.
If your injuries are bad enough to meet the thresholds, you can still seek compensation from the at-fault driver after taking no-fault benefits. This allows seriously injured people to seek full compensation.
Could I Be Liable For My Own D.C. Car Accident?
There are cases in which a driver can be held liable for their accident and thereby invalidate their claim. This is known as contributory negligence, and Washington, D.C. has a strict rule about it. If the victim is even 1% responsible for an accident, he or she cannot recover. Examples could include accidents in which the victim was texting while driving or speeding, in addition to whatever negligent behavior the defendant was engaged in.
However, the negligence must be a proximate cause of the accident. That means the driver’s negligence, if any, must have contributed to the injuries in the accident.
Contributory negligence gives defendant drivers and their lawyers a defense against your lawsuit. There’s a good chance that if you’ve been hurt, the other party will look for a reason to blame you so they don’t have to pay. Having a skilled Washington, D.C. car accident attorney is therefore critical.
Contact Our Washington, D.C. Car Accident Attorneys
After an auto accident, all you want to do is get your life back on track. Winning the compensation you deserve for your injuries is how that begins. Give us a call at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP to schedule your confidential consultation today.
Koonz McKenney Johnson & Depaolis serve residents of Washington, D.C. including those living in Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights, Downtown District of Columbia, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, and Mount Vernon.