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What to Do Immediately After a Car Accident is Very Important

October 12, 2017

Stop and Check

After a collision, each driver must stop immediately and check for injuries. If someone is hurt, you must call 9-1-1 if necessary. Also, remain at the scene until a law enforcement officer shows up. When the officer arrives, show your identifying information. If another person's property has been damaged, you must show your "identifying information." In most jurisdictions, this generally means showing your driver license and vehicle registration number. Failure to stop and check can cause you to be charged with a crime and possibly fined or incarcerated. See D.C. Code Section 50-2201.05c for more details

File an Accident Report

The DC DMV instructs drivers to always file an accident report with the Metropolitan Police Department. The Department requires you to phone-in the report. Do NOT file an online report. If you called 9-1-1 at the time of an accident, and an officer showed up, you do not have to file an additional report. If you are reporting at a later time, and there is no current emergency, call (202) 727-4106. When you are done reporting a crash, ask for the six-digit identifying number and save it for your records.

If you have a legal dispute following an collision, you may need a copy of the accident report. You may request a copy by mail or in person. In either case, you must provide the six-digit accident number. If you don't have it, provide:

  1. your name,
  2. date of the request,
  3. date and time of the accident, and
  4. location of the accident.

If requesting by mail, send a letter with the above information, a self-addressed and stamped envelope, and a money order for $3 (payable to "DC Treasurer") to:

Metropolitan Police Department
Public Documents Unit
ATTN: Accident/Incident Reports
300 Indiana Avenue, NW, Room 3075
Washington, DC 20001

If visiting in person, go to the MPDC Headquarters at the above address. You must bring a government-issued photo ID.

Contact Your Insurer

The District of Columbia is a "no-fault" car insurance jurisdiction. The DMV instructs drivers to notify their insurance company in the event of an accident. This is the first step in recovering for any expenses related to an injury or property damage. You will only contact another driver's insurance if you have suffered series, long-term injuries or the medical costs of an injury exceed the benefits under your own insurance. Talk to your provider or a local Washington lawyer for more details.

Get a Free Case Assessment

If you need help sorting out what to do after a car accident in Washington D.C. professional assistance can be very helpful. A lawyer can help identify any possible claims and guide you through the various legal processes. Get started by scheduling a free consultation with the Nawash Law Office to discuss your accident with attorney Kamal Nawash..

Washington D.C. No-Fault Car Insurance Rules

If you're involved in a car accident in D.C. and you've got car insurance in the district, the most important thing to understand is that any injury claim you make will start (and likely end) with your own car insurance carrier, under your own policy. That's because D.C. follows a no-fault system, which in most cases precludes making a claim against another driver. As the name suggests, "no-fault" does not take into account who might have been at fault for the accident.

In some cases, you might be able to step outside the confines of the no-fault system. In D.C., there are two thresholds for doing so, and meeting either one will let you shed the restrictions of no-fault and file a liability claim or personal injury lawsuit against the other driver:

  • If your claim (cost of medical expenses and lost income) exceeds the limits of your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy, or
  • If your injuries include substantial permanent scarring or disfigurement, substantial permanent impairment, or substantially total impairment lasting 180 days or more.

Learn more about How No Fault Car Insurance Works.

How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit in D.C.?

If your claim does meet one of the two thresholds for stepping outside of the no-fault car insurance system, you need to understand the time limit for filing a lawsuit over your car accident injuries.

In Washington, D.C., you have three years after a car accident occurs to file a lawsuit for personal injuries or for damage to property (DC Stat. 12-301).

Note: If you've been in an accident involving a government vehicle, employee, or property, you'll need to file an incident claim with the right government agency in order to protect your rights -- and you'll need to do it quickly. Our article on Accidents Involving the Government: Claim Basics provides more information on personal injury claims against government entities.

How Does Being Partly at Fault Affect My Case?

In most states, when a driver is partially at fault for causing an accident, he or she can still recover compensation from other at-fault drivers, although the amount of recoverable damages is usually reduced. Washington, D.C., however, follows a stricter rule.

The District of Columbia is one of the few places left in the nation where courts follow a "contributory negligence" rule. In these states, you can only recover in a personal injury lawsuit if you bear no fault whatsoever for causing the accident that injured you.

Suppose that you are injured in a crash with another driver. You take your case to court, where the jury decides that the total amount of your losses from the crash -- your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all your other "damages" -- add up to $100,000. However, the jury also decides, based on the evidence, that you were 10 percent at fault for the crash. Under D.C.'s contributory negligence rule, that 10 percent of fault the jury ascribed to you means that your damages award drops to zero, and you'll recover nothing.

This is a tough rule to beat, and it makes many people think twice before filing a personal injury lawsuit in D.C. It's wise to talk to an attorney about your chances if you're thinking about filing a lawsuit after a car accident.

D.C. Auto Insurance Laws and Your Traffic Accident Claim

Washington, D.C. requires drivers to carry minimum amounts and types of insurance, and those rules can affect your car accident case. For more information on D.C.'s insurance requirements, including a closer look at the district's no-fault rules