Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law

Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Overview

In a personal injury case, you often have the right to recuperate the costs of your care and recovery from the person who hurt you. In Washington, D.C., those recoverable costs include:

  • The short- and long-term medical care you require
  • Lost income from work time you have to miss, including the cost of future earnings you could have gained if not for your injury
  • Care for mental and emotional injuries

The goal of monetary compensation after an injury is to restore your life to the level, or as close to the level as possible, it was prior to the injury.

Each jurisdiction has separate rules that dictate the laws and requirements for filing a personal injury lawsuit. Knowing how these laws will apply to your specific circumstances is crucial to building the strongest case to get you the compensation you need and deserve.

What Injuries Can You Sue for in Washington, D.C.?

When people think of the basis for a personal injury suit, they usually think of negligence. Indeed, negligence can be the foundation for a claim of personal injury, but it’s not the only one.

Negligent injuries are typically caused by actions that could have been prevented if the liable party had been more responsible or careful. Most activities require a certain duty or expectation of care when undertaking them. When someone breaches that duty, you my have the grounds for a negligence case. Examples of potential negligence cases include:

  • Car accidents caused by texting or distracted drivers
  • Medical malpractice where a doctor performed a surgery below the standard of care
  • Slip-and-falls that occur because a business doesn’t clean up a spill on their floors

Some accidents occur even when the harmful party did exercise reasonable care, but if they cause an injury, they could still be liable for paying damages. These are known as strict liability cases. Often strict liability comes into play when discussing abnormally dangerous activities that bring an expected risk of harm. These can include:

  • Transporting toxic chemicals that leak even if the transporter was appropriately careful
  • A defective product causing injury
  • Dog bite injuries

You can also sue for intentionally inflicted injuries, such as those resulting from assault and battery cases.

What Are the Rules for Personal Injury Lawsuits in the District of Columbia?

The District of Columbia has some specific rules that apply to personal injury cases.

Many jurisdictions have caps on how much money victims recover in personal injury cases, but in general, Washington, D.C. does not have a cap for personal injury lawsuits. There may be exceptions, however, so it’s important to evaluate the specifics of your case when calculating how much you may recover.

Another rule that can change your recovery options is contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, applicable in the District of Columbia, you may not be able to recover any amount if the court finds that you contributed to the cause of your injury. For example, if a reckless driver causes a car accident but you were speeding at the time, you may not be allowed to receive any compensation, even if the other driver’s conduct contributed much more to the accident.

You’ll also need to consider the statute of limitations, that is, the time limit for when you need to file your case by. You’ll usually have a three-year limit in the District of Columbia, but if you try your case in a federal court, you will only have two years.

How Do the Rules Change With Out-of-District Parties?

Many people who work in or visit the District of Columbia don’t actually live within the boundaries of the city. This can complicate proceedings when an accident happens in the Capitol.

  • If you are a local but the responsible party is not, the case can usually be brought in the District of Columbia if that’s where the harm occurred. Under these circumstances, the case is typically tried in a federal court.
  • If the injurer is local but you are not, you can still typically have the case tried in the jurisdiction where the injury occurred. If traveling back to the District of Columbia is challenging, you may be able to have the case tried in a federal court in your own state, under special circumstances.
  • If neither party is actually a resident of the city, it once again may be tried in a federal court there, but the you may also be able to make a case for a trial in your home state.

Which jurisdiction you try to have your case heard in may depend on which court has the most advantageous rules, such as higher or no caps on awards and longer statutes of limitations.

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