“If the burden is to explain why bicyclists need to be treated differently… it’s clear to me that one of the main differences is that generally it is the bicyclist who is taken to the hospital while the motorist makes his case to police.”
This quote from Tommy Wells, a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, can be found in a recent Washington Post article on an important debate currently being held by policymakers. Depending on the outcome of the debate, it might be more easy for cyclists to successfully receive compensation from a driver’s insurance company after a collision with a motor vehicle.
As it currently stands, DC follows a principle of pure contributory negligence. If you’re found to share even a little bit of fault for an accident, you generally can’t receive money from the other driver’s insurance or collect damages in a civil suit. This is true even if you’re a cyclist (or a pedestrian) and much more likely to suffer severe injuries in a crash with a motor vehicle.
As mentioned in the article, sometimes fault is assigned unfairly. For instance, a police report following the accident can make some minor suggestion that a cyclist wasn’t behaving perfectly, and as a result, the cyclist loses out on an insurance claim. Even in cases when it’s clear that most of the fault lies with the motor vehicle driver, cyclists may be left on the hook with major medical bills.
It will be interesting to see how the debate develops, and whether it will result in any changes to the principle of pure contributory negligence. Maybe cyclists will be allowed to receive some degree of compensation so long as the driver shares any of the fault; or maybe a successful insurance claim will be limited only to cyclists who share less than half the fault for an accident.
Furthermore, a change for cyclists may open the door to other modifications to the law, such that motor vehicle drivers might also be able to receive some compensation from insurance companies even if they share the fault for an accident.
Don’t hesitate to contact an experienced DC accident attorney to advocate for you after an accident. Your attorney will stay up-to-date with all of the relevant changes in the law and fight for you to receive the most compensation possible.
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