Every U.S. state has its own auto insurance laws and requirements. So does the District of Columbia, which has its own driving laws and its own Department of Motor Vehicles. In this article, we’ll explore the insurance rules and regulations that apply to cars registered in D.C. and how they might affect drivers who are involved in a car accident.
Washington, D.C. follows a “no-fault” car insurance system. This means, when an accident occurs, each driver involved in the crash files an injury claim with his or her own insurer first, regardless of who bore the legal “fault” for the accident. (Our article No-Fault Car Insurance and State Laws: The Basics covers no-fault insurance in more detail.) In exchange for this fairly comprehensive insurance coverage, motorists are prohibited from suing one another over car accident injuries unless the case involves one of the following:
Any motor vehicle registered and driven in Washington, D.C. must be insured for at least the following minimum types and amounts of coverage:
When an accident injures only one person, the “per-person” injury limit applies. When more than one person is injured, the “per-accident” limit applies to the benefits paid to every person who was injured in the accident. “Property damage” benefits cover damage your vehicle causes to another person’s real estate or personal property. For instance, if you crash into a neighbor’s fence during an accident, your property damage benefits would go to pay the costs of repairing or replacing the fence.
The minimum required insurance does not cover damage to your vehicle in a crash. However, you can always add "collision" coverage to your policy.
The required coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorist accidents is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in D.C. This coverage ensures that medical bills can still be paid even if one of the drivers involved in the accident did not have insurance or did not have enough insurance to cover everyone’s injuries, property damage, or both.
Washington, D.C. requires uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for both personal injuries and property damage, which is unusual; most states that require this coverage only mandate it for personal injury costs. (For more information, see Uninsured Motorist Car Insurance Coverage: The Basics and Underinsured Motorist Coverage: How It Works.
The Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles provides an explanation of its no-fault insurance requirements -- including the penalties for failing to maintain proper insurance -- at its official website.