For drivers and passengers who have been involved in a car accident in the District of Columbia, it's important to understand the D.C. laws and insurance requirements that could affect any claim you decide to make, whether for injury or for vehicle damage.
This page provides a guide to the D.C.-specific resources on All-About-Car-Accidents.com, starting with the D.C. no-fault car insurance rules, and the circumstances in which you may be able to step outside of those no-fault rules and file a liability claim after a car accident.
After any car accident in D.C., the first thing you need to understand is that the district follows "no-fault" car insurance rules. Anyone who has been injured in a car accident turns first (and usually exclusively) to his or her own car insurance coverage to get compensation for injuries and lost income, up to a certain dollar limit.
D.C. drivers and passengers who have been injured in a car accident can only step outside of the state's no-fault system -- and pursue a liability claim against the at-fault driver -- if their claim meets certain injury-related thresholds. For details, check out our D.C. No-Fault Car Insurance Laws article.
What kinds of car insurance coverage minimums are D.C. drivers required to carry? Here's a snapshot:
If you fail to maintain proper insurance on a vehicle registered in D.C., your registration tags will be suspended and you will be subject to a fine of $150 for any lapse that lasts from one to 30 days, and then another $7 for each additional uninsured day, up to a maximum of $2500.
After a car accident, if your claim is serious enough to let you file a liability claim against the at-fault driver in the District of Columbia, there are a few district laws that could affect your case, starting with the deadline for filing a personal injury case in court (this kind of law is called a "statute of limitations," and every state has one).
In D.C., you have three years from the date of the car accident to get your case started by filing the initial complaint in D.C.'s civil court system. You can find this law codified at D.C. Statutes 12-301. The same three-year deadline applies to any lawsuit you want to file over vehicle damage.
Learn more in our article Car Accident Laws in D.C.
If you were involved in a pretty minor car accident and you are simply making a claim through your own insurer in line with the no-fault car insurance rules in D.C., you may not need to hire a car accident lawyer, as long as you're comfortable handling the claim yourself.
But if your claim qualifies under D.C.'s threshold for taking a car accident case outside of the no-fault system -- or if you're trying to prove that your claim should be exempt from no-fault under that threshold -- you might find that there is a lot more at stake, and in that case, discussing your situation with an experienced D.C. car accident lawyer is probably a good idea.
A good car accident attorney knows how to anticipate and avoid obstacles in the car accident claim process, and will protect your rights at every step, including filing a car accident lawsuit in D.C.'s court system if that turns out to be the right move.