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Can I Still Pursue Compensation if I Was Partially at Fault for My Injuries in DC?

Compensation and Fault

One of the most important parts of a personal injury case is determining which party was at fault. Personal injury claims are often the result of a negligent or careless action and deciding who caused the accident and whether the injured party was also at fault can be complicated. Different states follow different guidelines for finding which party is at fault and calculating how much money can be recovered. In Washington, DC, the law states that if you were found even partially at fault, you could be barred from recovery. If you were injured in an accident, it is important that you understand the differences in these theories of negligence and how a DC personal injury lawyer can help your claim.

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What Is the Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence?

There are two main ways that a court will assign liability in a personal injury claim: contributory negligence and comparative negligence.

  • Contributory negligence is a very strict and dated standard. Under this standard, if you contributed to your accident, even if the other party were significantly more at fault, you would not recover anything. Defendants often use this doctrine as a defense, making it difficult for a plaintiff to receive compensation (damages).
  • Comparative negligence is the milder standard. It still evaluates how much you may have contributed to your injury or accident, but it allows you to recover the portion of damages the defendant was at fault for.

How Would This Work in a Real Case?

Can I Still Puruse Compensation If I Was Partially At Fault?A situation where the injured party might have contributed to an accident is a pedestrian injured while crossing a crosswalk. If a car runs a red light and collides with a pedestrian in the crosswalk, but the pedestrian is distracted and looking down at their phone, then arguably, some liability could be placed on the pedestrian. Their recovery will ultimately depend on which type of negligence is used.

For example, assume the pedestrian (the plaintiff) files a personal injury claim against the car’s driver (the defendant). If the court determines that the plaintiff’s injuries were worth $1 million, the following situations could happen:

  • Under either theory of liability, if the defendant caused 100% of the injuries and the plaintiff was not at fault, the plaintiff would potentially be able to receive the total award.
  • Under a contributory negligence standard, if the plaintiff contributed to the injury at all, even just 1%, they would be unable to recover anything.
  • Under a comparative negligence standard, if the plaintiff contributed to their injury, they would recover the percentage of the injury attributed to the defendant as long as they contributed less than the defendant. So, if the plaintiff was 10% at fault, they could recover $900,000. If the plaintiff were 51% or more responsible for the injury, they would most likely recover nothing.

What Law Does DC Law Recognize?

Washington, DC, is one of the remaining states still recognizing contributory negligence. Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina are the other states that still use contributory negligence. Recently, DC has progressed to a milder form of contributory negligence in certain circumstances. Under this modified contributory negligence standard, called the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act, a person who is injured on a public highway by a vehicle while walking, riding a bike, riding a scooter, or by traveling in any other non-motorized means can still recover as long as they were not the proximate cause of the accident and were not more at fault than the defendant. In the distracted pedestrian example, under this version of modified contributory negligence, the pedestrian should be able to recover as long as they were not more at fault than the driver.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you’ve been in an accident and are considering a personal injury action, consult an experienced lawyer. A good lawyer is even more important in Washington, DC, because DC uses contributory negligence. Choosing a Washington, DC personal injury lawyer at Regan Zambri Long can help your case if you were found partially at fault. We will discuss your case with you and explain how the contributory or comparative negligence will affect your claim. Call today to schedule a free consultation.

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Have you or your loved one sustained injuries in Washington DC, Maryland or Virginia? Regan Zambri Long PLLC has the best lawyers in the country to analyze your case and answer the questions you may have.

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