By Allan M. Siegel
Today, the D.C. Council will be voting to on a law which will make it easier
to hold negligent drivers responsible when they cause injuries to bicyclists
or pedestrians. Currently, the doctrine of contributory negligence holds
that if a person who has suffered a personal injury is in any way at fault
for the injury, then they are
completely barred from recovering compensation for their injuries. In other words, if a
bicyclist or pedestrian is 1% negligent and the motorist is 99% negligent,
the bicyclist or pedestrian will be precluded from recovery.
For example, if a pedestrian chooses to cross outside of the crosswalk
thinking it is safe and he is struck by a speeding motorist, who was not
paying attention, the pedestrian will not likely be able to recover, even
though the motorist should have seen the pedestrian and avoided hitting
him or her. This is particularly devastating in
pedestrian accidents because these are the individuals injured the worse when these incidents
occur, and are often unjustly precluded from receiving any compensation
from insurance companies.
Throughout the United States, 46 other states have already done away with
the harsh contributory negligence system and have moved onto a system
known as comparative negligence, which allows for compensation based on
the percentage of fault. The DC Council will be considering a bill today
to change this antiquated law for pedestrians and bicyclists.
In an effort to defeat this bill, an association representing auto insurers
in D.C., the Property Casualty Insurers of America, has been spreading
false information and exaggerated claims, stating that rates will jump
by 24% in the District if this bill passes. A careful evaluation of this
analysis demonstrates that it is based upon flawed assumptions and grossly
inflated cost data. For example, they calculated this finding as if 100%
of all crashes in D.C. involve a D.C. driver, when in fact according to
a 2014 DDOT report only 37% of all crashes involved a D.C. insured driver.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is fighting to help pass this
bill. You can show your support through their site by submissions to the council
here and by
rallying at the Wilson Building today.