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Your District of Columbia Injury Legal Guide

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If you have been injured by another person in the District of Columbia, your time to file a lawsuit may be limited. Contact a personal injury lawyer immediately to learn how much your case is worth. An experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney can help you maximize the compensation you receive for your injuries — and make sure that you don't exceed the time limit to file a claim.

This guide to Washington, D.C. personal injury laws will discuss important factors you need to consider if you or a loved one has been harmed. For more information, speak with a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney from our network of experienced lawyers.*

After You Are Injured

  • Take care of your injuries immediately
  • Contact a lawyer
  • Document all injuries and any damage to property (get copies of accident reports, take pictures, keep receipts and invoices, keep notes of new symptoms, document time off from work, etc.)
  • Get information from witnesses (phone numbers, addresses, statements, etc.)
  • Open a claim with the other person's insurance company
  • Do not give any statements to anyone other than the police before speaking with a lawyer
  • Do not sign any releases of liability or potential claims before speaking with a lawyer

Statute of Limitations

You have a limited amount of time to file your personal injury claim in the District of Columbia. The statute of limitations dictates how long you have to file the claim with the court after you are injured. In some cases, the statute of limitations starts when the person becomes aware of the injury or should have become aware of the injury (the Discovery Rule). Washington, D.C. statute of limitations laws may differ from those of other states.

Washington, D.C. Statute of Limitations Laws
Type of Claim: Statute of Limitation:
Negligence (car accidents, slip and fall, toxic torts, etc.) 3 years
Assault or Battery 1 year
Defamation 1 year
Strict Liability 3 years
Products Liability 3 years
Wrongful Death 1 year

Types of Claims: Who Is Liable?

Negligence

The person or company who was negligent is liable. However, under Washington, D.C. law, if the person who was injured was also negligent, then he or she cannot receive any compensation at all; this is called contributory negligence.

Assault or Battery (Intentional Torts)

The person who deliberately caused the injury is liable.

Defamation

The speaker or writer of the negative statement and anyone who repeats that statement is liable.

Strict Liability

The person or company engaging in the dangerous activity — or who has, in some way, helped to put the product on the market (see below) — is liable. In strict liability cases involving damage caused by an animal, the person or company responsible for the animal is liable.

Products Liability

Anyone who has had a role in putting the product on the market could be liable. Frequently, though not always, this person or company must be someone involved in the sale of the product in the regular course of business.

Wrongful Death

Whoever would be liable for the activity that caused the death is liable.

Damages You May Receive

  • Reimbursement for medical treatment and lost wages
  • Reimbursement for damage to or loss of use of property that occurred as a result of the injury
  • Loss of consortium (loss of services of your spouse: income, companionship, child care, etc.)
  • Money for emotional distress and/or pain and suffering
  • Injury to reputation
  • Punitive damages (money given as punishment)

Limitations on Damages

Generally, there are no limitations on damages you receive that compensate you for your injuries (such as reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages), although some limitations do exist in certain situations. However, your estimation of damages must be reasonably certain, especially for those damages projected for the future, such as future medical expenses or future lost wages.

Your non-economic damages, or those damages that are not based on money you actually paid, are more subjective and may be limited by statute or by circumstances of your situation. These damages may include pain and suffering and the loss of the services and companionship of your spouse.

Punitive damages may be awarded with compensatory damages when the behavior of the person that injured the victim was malicious, intentional, willful, or with reckless disregard to the rights of others. In Washington, D.C., punitive damages must not be unconstitutionally high; typically, the upper limit is nine times compensatory damages unless extreme circumstances exist. There may be some exceptions to these limits.

Special Washington, D.C. Insurance Provision

For car accidents, Washington, D.C. has an add-on insurance choice called no-fault insurance that allows the owners of registered vehicles to carry car insurance that compensates them for injuries they sustain in a car accident, regardless of whether or not they are at fault. Under this system, drivers involved in accidents are reimbursed for their injuries by their own insurance companies. However, you may still receive compensation from the party at fault for any monetary losses your insurance company does not cover. For non-monetary damages, you may receive compensation for damages if you have an injury serious enough to permit a tort (personal injury lawsuit).

If you do not choose to add no-fault insurance to your regular policy, you will be eligible to seek monetary compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit.

*State and federal laws in the United States are constantly changing. This guide is intended solely for informational purposes and should not take the place of the advice of a lawyer. Only a qualified attorney can assess the merits of your case completely and provide an effective plan for counsel.

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