Over $100 Million Recovered For Our Clients “Roger K. Gelb is one of the area’s most respected and sought-after legal minds” – Washingtonian Magazine
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyer
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Get the Compensation You Deserve
With hundreds of thousands of motorists on the road in and around the District of Columbia (Washington, DC), car accidents happen with unfortunate regularity. With driving being an everyday occurrence for many people, drivers often become too comfortable behind the wheel. Whether it be texting, drunk driving, or overall exhaustion, drivers have become complacent in risking the well-being of everyone else on the road. These accidents range from minor fender-benders to severe collisions. Our DC car accident lawyers have experience dealing with complex battles. We know motorists involved in these accidents can suffer permanent or even fatal injuries.
A motorist, passenger, or pedestrian who has been hurt in a traffic accident caused by a driver’s carelessness should not hesitate to consult a seasoned car crash attorney who can help them pursue compensation. Knowledgeable, experienced, Washington DC car accident lawyer Roger Gelb, is here to assist you with protecting your legal rights following a car or truck crash as he’s done as he has done with thousands of cases in various personal injury accidents. Reach out to a local car accident lawyer to learn about your options for recovering compensation.
Common Causes of a Collision
There is an alarmingly high number of car accidents that occur everyday. In DC, there are a number of things that can cause serious accidents. Some of the most common causes of an auto collision include:
With the frequency of car accidents being so high, it’s important to know how to react. Reach out to a knowledgeable car accident lawyer in DC to learn about the steps to take following a crash.
What to Do if You are Involved in a Car Accident in Washington, D.C.
In a car accident, suffering injuries is not enough to entitle a driver to monetary compensation. To recover damages, the injured driver must first demonstrate that the other motorist involved in the crash was negligent. Negligence occurs when an individual causes an injury due to their careless, reckless, wanton, intentional act, or any other deviation from the appropriate standard of care.
In proving that a defendant in an automobile accident case was negligent, the injured claimant’s attorney must show four things. The elements include the existence of a duty of care, breach of the duty, compensable damages, and a causal link between those damages as the acts of the defendant. To show causation, you must show the breach was the legal and proximate cause of the injury. These are complicated areas of tort law and an article will not be able to adequately describe them. Consult a car accident lawyer for counsel on your individual facts.
What Is Duty of Care in a Car Accident?
First, there must have been a legal duty of care owed to the plaintiff by the defendant, which usually consists of the obligation to drive safely. Establishing the duty of care is the first step in proving negligence. In many car accident cases, this step is a formality. Every driver has an obligation to operate their vehicle safely. Accordingly, as a driver, you owe this duty to anyone near your vehicle.
Breach Of Duty
Many car accident claims center on whether or not the other driver breached their duty of care. Proving that a breach occurred frequently involves establishing that the other driver committed a traffic violation. So, the defendant must have breached that duty in some way, such as by texting while driving, failing to yield at an intersection, speeding, or driving while intoxicated.
Once a plaintiff has established that the defendant breached their duty of care, they must also link the injuries they sustained in the crash to the defendant. A plaintiff can only collect compensation for injuries that stem from the crash, so proving causation is a necessary step.
The third step involves proving that the defendant’s carelessness is the actual cause of the accident. To prove the causation element, we must prove actual causation and legal causation. To prove actual causation, we use a “but for” test. This is more intuitive than it sounds. But for some act or omission, the injury would not have occurred. The issue with relying solely on the “but for” test is that there are often countless actual causes of an event. For example, if you are in a car accident. You getting in your car and deciding to go to the grocery store is technically an actual cause of the accident. But of course, the law does not place any liability on you for deciding to buy groceries. Rather, we need the second part of proving causation.
The second part of proving causation is by proving that an act or omission is the proximate cause of an injury. This is also known as legal causation. This acts as a limitation of liability. It stops actual causes like getting in your car from having legal significance. The general rule is a defendant is liable for all harmful results that are foreseeable at the time of action. Thus, this is a foreseeability test. What is foreseeable at the time of act or omission is debatable and is an issue for the finder of fact at trial. However, there are some classic examples that are already clear as a matter of law.
For example, courts generally agree that medical malpractice is foreseeable. So, let’s say someone collides with your car and you need emergency surgery to fix broken bones. A successful surgery would completely save you and you would come to a full recovery. However, the surgeon commits medical malpractice and you pass away during the surgery, the driver of the car who hit you is responsible for your death. Although, you may also have a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon.
Last, we must show that you experienced some harm. There is no presumption of damages in a DC car accident case. Rather, we must offer some proof of harm for a successful negligence action. Damages in a negligence action cover all costs, expenses, and pain and suffering you incur. This includes adequate compensation for damages you suffered in the past, present, and in the future as it relates to your accident. Covering the past and present may seem obvious, but the best DC accident lawyer knows to win you compensation for the future as well. You may lose earning capacity due to your injuries because you may not be able to work the same job. Or, you may have future medical treatment because of your accident. We will make sure you are not left to handle these expenses alone once your case is over.
Beyond the medical expenses you will be reimbursed for, you may also receive compensation for property damage. This is calculated by the reasonable cost of repair. Or, if it is completely destroyed, by the fair market value at the time of accident. There is also a chance you may obtain punitive damages. These act as a multiplier of your compensatory damages. For example, if you recover $20,000 in compensatory damages, you may obtain an additional $180,000 in punitive damages, depending on how egregious the defendant’s actions are.
How a DC Car Accident Lawyer can Help You
The plaintiff must show that they suffered measurable damages in the accident. Depending on the harm suffered by an accident victim, damages in a personal injury case arising from a car crash may include payment for time off work and loss of future wages, reimbursement for medical expenses that were the reasonable and necessary consequences of the injuries resulting from the accident, and compensation for pain and suffering. If the injured party was married when the accident occurred, their spouse may also assert a related claim. This may be a wrongful death action or a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, depending on the facts. For a set of instructions on what to do after an accident, click here.
How to Handle the Insurance Company
Determining whether the other driver was negligent is an important step. This is true even if a personal injury claim never goes to trial and requires legal knowledge. A car accident lawyer in Washington, DC or Maryland can resolve these claims prior to trial. However, the insurance company is unlikely to make a settlement offer without evidence that their driver is negligent.
The insurance company will pursue its own investigation into the crash. This often holds up a settlement offer for weeks or even months. During that time, the insurance adjuster may request documents or even a recorded statement from the plaintiff. Insurance adjusters are determined to pay out the smallest possible settlement to keep profits high. Their concern is the company and its shareholders, regardless of whether the settlement appropriately compensates a victim. The right legal counsel could deal directly with the other insurance company to protect the rights of the plaintiff and work toward a reasonable settlement.
Frequently Asked Questions
While this list is not exhaustive, it hopefully will clear up confusion regarding the claims process. If you have a question outside the scope of this list, please call today.
Do I have to leave my information after a car accident?
Any person who operates a motor vehicle within the District who knows or has reason to believe that his vehicle has been in a collision shall immediately stop and provide identifying information to the owner or operator of the property. It is illegal in D.C. to get into a car accident and leave, also known as a “hit and run”. If another person is injured, you must call 911 yourself, or ensure someone else does, and remain on the scene until law enforcement arrives. See DC Code § 50-2201.05(c).
How long do I have to file my claim for a DC car accident?
In general, the statute of limitations in Washington, D.C. is three years. This allows you three years to file suit in a DC court after the date of accident. While there are exceptions, those exceptions generally do not apply to car accident cases.
My car was totaled after a car accident. How much can I recover for the loss of my car?
D.C. law makes it relatively easy to determine how much money you should receive following a total loss to your vehicle. But unfortunately, the law does not take into account sentimental value. The general measure of recovery is based on a determination of the fair market value of the plaintiff’s motor vehicle immediately prior to the accident. In addition, you can obtain compensation for the loss of use of your automobile. See Gamble v. Smith, 386 A.2d 692 (D.C. 1978).
Am I entitled to medical expenses following a DC car accident?
If you receive medical treatment that we can causally relate to your car accident, you may obtain financial compensation. Tort common law supports total compensation for all reasonable medical treatment related to your negligence claim. In some cases, insurance companies try to discount thousands of dollars in medical expenses down to $0 because they believe it is excessive. However, the law does not support this. If the jury finds that the plaintiff suffered an injury, DC Appellate Courts have not allowed unreasonable discounting of injuries. See Anthony v. Allstate Ins. Co., 790 A.2d 535 (D.C. 2002).
Do I need to prove lost wages after a DC car accident?
Without further evidence beyond mere testimony that you missed work, a jury may reject your claim due to inadequate proof of lost wages. A jury must have some reasonable basis on which to estimate damages. See Anthony v. Allstate Ins. Co., 790 A.2d 535 (D.C. 2002). A good DC car accident lawyer will guide you in collecting your evidence and building your case to recover these wages.
When does uninsured motorist coverage, or UM, apply?
UM coverage applies in three instances. First, when a motor vehicle is not insured by a liability policy applicable to the accident. Second, when the at-fault driver’s insurer denies coverage for any reason. And third, when you are unable to identify the owner or operator of the at-fault vehicle.
Contact a DC Car Accident Lawyer Right Away
Car accidents can have a significant impact on your physical health and your finances. Dealing with the fallout of a crash can be difficult, especially when medical bills begin piling up. A personal injury claim can remove the financial pressure from this situation and ensure you get the medical treatment you need.
If you would like to move forward with an injury claim, you do not have to do so alone. Contact a Washington DC car accident lawyer for a free consultation.
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