With over 670,000 people living in our nation’s capital the District of Columbia, car accidents are an inevitable fact of life. District of Columbia car accident laws were created to help victims navigate through the legal process after a traumatic car crash. These regulations seek to answer questions like:
- How does my liability affect a possible settlement?
- What economic damages can I qualify for?
- How does the District of Columbia regulate car insurance?
Washington, D.C. is ranked 8th among cities that have some of the worst traffic in the country. Thanks to high tourism and many commuters coming in from surrounding areas every day for work, the traffic continuously wears the roads.
More than 30,000 people have been injured or killed in traffic crashes in D.C., and fatalities are up 46% year over year here. It is smart to know the District of Columbia’s accident laws when talking to an auto accident lawyer about your case. Each crash is different and requires the expertise of an attorney to get the most out of your settlement.
How to Report a Car Accident in the District of Columbia
District of Columbia law requires that you report a crash within 5 days if it involves property damage of more than $250. Thus, even if your car accident is minor, call the police. The D.C. DMV recommends you file an accident report with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
D.C. Code § 50-2201.05c also requires you to report a car accident if someone was injured or if the property or domesticated animal hit poses a risk to others.
If you call the police immediately about the crash, an MPD officer will write an accident report on the scene. The officer will give you a six-digit identifying number (called the “CCN”). Save it for future use. You may also file a report later by calling the local station.
This report is called a PD-10 Accident Report, and it is used by insurance companies to judge each party’s liability for a crash. This report contains information about the accident like:
- Weather and road conditions
- Details of the surroundings and type of crash
- Date and location of the car accident
- Vehicles, parties, and injuries involved
- Statements from drivers and witnesses
- Narratives from the reporting officer about the crash
All of this information is key to determining liability after a crash, which will help you get a higher settlement for your claim.
Penalties for Leaving a Car Crash in Washington D.C
If you leave a car accident without giving necessary info to the other driver and violate section 50-2201.05c, you may face legal fines or imprisonment. The severity and length of your sentence depends on the case, all of which are described in D.C. Code § 50-2201.05c.
What to Do After a Car Accident in D.C.
- Stop, then move your car if you are able. District of Columbia car accident laws say that you stop your car and move it out of the flow of traffic. Keep the vehicle as close to the crash site as possible. Remain at the scene.
- Call for help. You should call the police. District law requires you report a crash involving property damage of more than $250.
- Check for injuries. Remain at the scene if you can’t move. Call 911 if necessary. If you can move around, check on your passengers and then anyone else involved.
- Get the other driver’s information. Here is what you should gather:
- Their full name, phone number, and address
- Insurance information including the name of insurance provider, policy number, and the policyholder’s relationship to the driver
- Vehicle make and model
- Vehicle registration information
- License plate number
- Name of vehicle owner or who holds the title
- Gather witness information. The police report should include some witness contact information, but it might not list everyone. Gather as much witness info as you can, even when you think it won’t be relevant to your case. Your attorney can use your info to prove your liability in a crash.
- Take accident scene photos. Use your phone camera to record:
- How much damage occurred
- Weather conditions
- The position of street signs and signals
- Go to the doctor. Even if you don’t feel hurt, make sure to get an accurate checkup from your doctor. Injuries like whiplash are known to show symptoms 24 hours after the initial crash.
- Call your insurance company. Report the accident even if you don’t want to make a claim against your insurance. Washington D.C follows a system that requires you to file a claim to your insurance company after a crash.
Washington D.C. Car Insurance Laws
Washington D.C. car accident law requires all resident and non-resident cars to be insured according to D.C. Code § 31–2403.
Under District law, you must purchase these amounts of liability insurance at a minimum:
- $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person, and $50,000 total bodily injury coverage per accident
- $10,000 property damage coverage per accident
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. The minimum amount of coverage is $2,500 per person or $50,000 per accident
Penalties for driving without insurance are detailed in D.C. Code § 31–2413(b)(1)(A) below:
(b)(1)(A) A person who commits an offense under subsection (a)(3) of this section shall be subject to both the regulatory scheme established in § 31-2403(d)(2) and to a civil fine of $500, or a license suspension for up to 30 days, or both, for the first offense, and an increase of 50% of the civil fine for the second and each subsequent offense, or a license suspension for up to 60 days, or both, pursuant to §§ 50-2301.04 and 50-2301.05.
This fine increases until reaching $2,500 according to D.C. Code § 31–2413(2)(A).
Is the District of Columbia a No-Fault District?
Yes, the District of Columbia is a no-fault state. In at-fault states like Virginia, the driver who caused the accident is responsible for paying the costs of the victim’s losses. But in D.C.’s no-fault system, it is different:
- The insurance company pays for its own insured person’s minor injuries.
- It does not matter who was at-fault.
- This payment can cover expenses for medical treatment, lost wages, and other costs related to the accident.
District of Columbia car accident law follows a pure contributory negligence system. This means if the plaintiff shares any degree of fault, they can’t recover damages for an accident.
You may make a claim for PIP (no-fault) medical benefits from your insurance company. Your claim should not be denied even if you were at-fault for the accident, or partially at-fault. It also means you would not be able to recover damages in a lawsuit because of this negligence standard.
IMPORTANT: Thanks to the District of Columbia’s unique no-fault laws, getting a lawyer is important. Why? Because your own insurance company will look for any reason to deny your claim.
Also, there may be reasons to file a lawsuit even under the no-fault system:
- If your injuries are deemed severe or permanent, you can file a claim against the other driver.
- If your personal injury damages exceed your own insurance policy, you may also be able to recover the difference from either the other driver or their insurance company.
- If you are making a claim for damage to your car, “no-fault” does not apply. You will file a claim with the other driver’s insurance.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) in the District of Columbia
This is a type of insurance that covers your medical treatment after an accident injury. While you aren’t required by law to be covered by PIP, insurance companies are required to offer no-fault PIP insurance to drivers in D.C. in addition to your required liability coverage. Benefits to PIP include:
- Automatically covering medical bills when injured in a car accident, regardless of fault.
- It covers medical and rehabilitation expenses up to $50,000 per person. It includes the person named in the policy, other passengers, and the occupants of any vehicle they are driving at the time of the accident.
- The insurer must offer a $100,000 coverage option. PIP does not cover lost wages or pain and suffering.
Further laws covering personal injury protection in Washington D.C. car accident law are present in D.C Code § 31–2404.
Types of Damages in Washington D.C.
There are three types of damages to consider after sustaining injuries in a car accident in the District of Columbia: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
- Economic damages are the measurable losses you’ve incurred because of your injury or damage to property, such as medical expenses, vehicle repair costs, and lost wages.
- Non-economic damages refer to the non-measurable costs of an accident, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability, and loss of consortium.
- D.C. does not have a cap on damages for pain and suffering. But its pure contributory negligence rule prevents any recovery of damages if the plaintiff is even 1% liable for the accident.
- Punitive damages are designed to punish an at-fault party for actions that are particularly egregious, wanton or reckless. Punitive damages are only awarded in extremely destructive car accident cases.
The Statute of Limitations for the District of Columbia
You have 3 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in District of Columbia car accident law according to D.C. Code § 12–301. You must also provide written notice to the defendant’s insurance company when a claim is filed.
If the claim involves a government party, you have much less time. The limit here is only six months according to D.C. Code § 12–309.
Find a District of Columbia Auto Accident Attorney with LegalASAP
Car accident claims take an incredible amount of time and detail that you may not afford when recovering from a crash. One misstep in your paperwork and problems show up in the future. Not only will an attorney clear up the complex legal process for you, but you may receive a higher settlement than if you agreed to the insurance company’s first offer.
LegalASAP can connect you with an auto accident lawyer in your D.C. area to review your case for free. The whole process is free of charge until you win your settlement, so call 888-927-3080 or click below to continue:
Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.