How long do I have to file my car accident case in Washington, D.C.?

When you have injuries, burial costs, or property damage from a car accident, you may want a quick settlement to help cover these expenses. However, the emotional and physical trauma that these events cause may be overwhelming to some victims, causing them to wait to file a claim. While patience can be beneficial during the negotiation phase of a personal injury claim, waiting too long to file the claim after your accident may cause you to lose the right to seek compensation.

Statute of Limitations

In the District of Columbia, car accident victims have three years from the time of the crash to file personal injury or personal property claims. Failing to file a suit within the allocated timeframe enables the other party to request a dismissal from the court. If the dismissal is granted, your case will be dropped and you become responsible for the expenses related to the accident.

Establishing Fault in Washington, D.C.

In the District of Columbia, drivers may only receive compensation if the other driver is found to be completely at fault for the accident. Just one Silver Stop Watch percent fault can cause you to lose your claim. For this reason, it is best that you do not admit fault or discuss the details of the accident with the other driver, bystanders, or the insurance company.

To prove fault, you and your attorney will need to analyze the specific details of the case and identify any risky actions made by the other party. To do this, you may need to interview witnesses, review the police report or interview the other driver and, in many cases, face his attorney. A lawyer can help you identify your claim’s strengths and develop a strong argument. If the driver of the other vehicle has made these, or other mistakes, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries:

  • Handling of technology such as cell phones or GPS devices while operating a vehicle
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances
  • Driving without a valid license
  • Failing to adhere to traffic laws
  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Making sudden, unpredictable lane changes or turns

If you believe that you are at least one percent at fault, you may also seek compensation from your own insurance company under no-fault insurance. No-fault insurance typically covers the costs of lost wages and the medical treatment you received for your injuries. However, no-fault insurance does not provide compensation for pain and suffering and, once you file a no-fault insurance claim, you typically forfeit your ability to file a claim against the other motorist. Choosing this route—though less risky—may significantly affect the value of your claim.

Collisions Involving Commercial Trucks

Rules and regulations pertaining to large trucks differ, as accidents involving these vehicles tend to be more severe. Truck drivers may be held liable for:

  • Driving overloaded trucks
  • Driving while drowsy
  • Failing to adhere to Hours of Service regulations—which mandate that drivers rest for a minimum amount of time before driving again
  • Failing to record the truck’s maintenance history
  • Failing to perform necessary maintenance or use equipment that aligns with industry standards
  • Reaching for an electronic device
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving without adequate certifications

If you’ve been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you may also be able to file a claim against manufacturers, the driver’s employer, and other parties who may have acted negligently.

Wrongful Death and the Statute of Limitations

While the statute of limitations requires personal injury victims to file a claim within three years, family members and next of kin to wrongful death victims have only two years to seek compensation for their losses. This timeline begins the day of the victim’s death.

Car accidents can be emotionally and financially draining. Contact our firm to work with an experienced Washington, D.C. attorney who is familiar with local laws and can help you receive the most compensation for your injuries and losses.