Every U.S. state has its own car insurance laws and requirements, and 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.—including the state's somewhat unique no-fault car insurance option—and how they might affect drivers who are involved in a car accident.
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 selling a car insurance policy, insurance companies in D.C. are required to offer "personal injury protection" (or "no-fault") coverage, but policyholders aren't required to purchase it (no-fault coverage isn't mandatory, in other words).
In mandatory no-fault car insurance states, the policyholder's own "personal injury protection" coverage pays for medical treatment and other losses, regardless of who caused the accident. This is typically the only option after a car accident, at least initially. But Washington D.C.'s system is somewhat unique.
Drivers in D.C. have the option of purchasing either no-fault or fault-based (liability) coverage when buying car insurance. After an accident, a driver who chose no-fault benefits at the time of the policy purchase has 60 days to decide whether to receive those benefits or file a claim directly against the driver or other party who caused the accident. In this way, D.C. falls somewhere between a "mandatory" no-fault state and a "choice" no-fault state.
Remember that compensation for "pain and suffering" isn't an option if you choose no-fault, at least not initially. You can, however, step outside the confines of no-fault and pursue a third-party insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if it turns out that your injuries meet certain thresholds under D.C. law, specifically:
The required coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorist accidents In D.C. is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for injuries, and $5,000 for vehicle damage. 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.'s requirement of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for both accident injuries and property damage is unusual; most states that require this coverage only mandate it for injuries. (For more information, see Uninsured Motorist Car Insurance Coverage: The Basics and Underinsured Motorist Coverage: How It Works.
Get details on car insurance coverage in the district at the D.C. DMV's Vehicle Insurance portal.
If you're looking for legal help after a car accident, it might be a good idea to discuss your situation with a D.C. attorney. You can connect with an attorney using the chat tools right on this page, or learn more about hiring a car accident lawyer.