In 2020, Washington D.C. passed the Washington DC Vulnerable User Recovery Act in an effort to protect those who are most vulnerable on the road. The law is designed to help those vulnerable users who have been injured in a car accident as a result of another driver’s negligence. If you have been injured in a car accident, contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. today to learn more about your rights under this new law.
What Does Vulnerable User Mean?
Vulnerable user refers to those most at risk in traffic with motor vehicles. These users are at increased risk because they have less protection than people riding in cars or trucks. For example, a cyclist does not have airbags or steel to protect them. As a result, vulnerable users have a higher chance of being seriously injured if they are in an accident with a motor vehicle.
Contributory Negligence Laws in D.C.
Before 2016, injured walkers and bikers were not allowed to obtain financial damages when they were even 1% responsible for a collision with a car. This is called contributory negligence. Under this contributory negligence law, a pedestrian or cyclist could suffer lifelong injuries due to someone else’s negligence and have no legal rights to seek damages if they were even 1% negligent.
For example, suppose a pedestrian legally crosses the street in a crosswalk and gets hit by a car. A lawyer might try to prove that the pedestrian contributed because they were talking on their phone. Under this contributory negligence law, if the pedestrian was found 1% at fault, the pedestrian would be precluded from obtaining financial compensation.
D.C. is one of very few jurisdictions in the country that still applies this law, and it still does for all other cases that do not involve a vulnerable road user.
Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016
This 2016 law was a big win for pedestrians and cyclists. Under this doctrine, the plaintiff’s negligence is not a bar to recovery if the Plaintiff’s negligence is 50% or less. This means that pedestrians, cyclists, and users of other non-motorized devices like skateboards can recover up to 100% of their losses. These losses include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage so long as the pedestrian or cyclist was no more than 50% at fault for a collision.
This law uses comparative negligence rather than contributory negligence. Comparative negligence compares the amount of fault by each party rather than determining if you contributed at all (even 1%.)
However, the 2016 law still did not include motorized devices, like motorized scooters, electric bikes, motorcycles, or electric mobility devices.
What Prompted the Amendment to the Law in 2020?
The amendment gained momentum after 20-year-old Carlos Sanchez-Martin was struck and killed by an SUV while riding a scooter at Dupont Circle on September 21, 2018. His death was the first scooter fatality since rental motorized scooter use began in D.C. The driver of the SUV did not face charges at the time. Dupont Circle is part of the Central Business District. Cyclists and scooter riders are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk in the Central Business District.
What Did the Vulnerable User Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2020 Add?
The Vulnerable User Collision Recovery Act of 2020 added other vulnerable users to the 2016 law. According to section 2(13) of the amendment, “‘Vulnerable user ‘means an individual using an all-terrain vehicle, bicycle, dirt bike, electric mobility device, motorcycle, motorized bicycle, motor-driven cycle, non-motorized scooter, personal mobility device, skateboard, or other similar devices.”
If you qualify as a “vulnerable user” as defined above, you will not be denied a financial recovery if you were in an accident with a car unless you are determined to be more than 50% negligent.
Follow D.C. Laws to Stay As Safe As Possible
- Must be at least 16 years old
- Wear a helmet if under 18 years old
- Allowed on some sidewalks
- Can use bike lanes
- Must legally park
- Obey restrictions on carrying packages
- No passengers
- Illegal to drink and operate a scooter
Electric scooters are not allowed on sidewalks in the Central Business District of D.C. Users are encouraged to use bike lanes when available.
D.C. Electric Bike Rules
- You must be 16 years old.
- Bicycle road rules apply.
In Washington, D.C., an e-bike is defined as a motorized bicycle, as long as:
- There are operable pedals.
- The e-bike operates under combined human and motor power.
- The maximum speed is 20 mph.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help You?
Even though the law has been improved for vulnerable users, determining who is at fault and how the fault should be apportioned can still be confusing. You need an advocate on your side who knows the laws and can stand up to insurance companies who do not want to provide fair compensation for your injuries. Our accident lawyers will examine:
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- Medical Records
- Physician statements
- Video footage
- Vehicle maintenance records
How Is Fair Compensation Determined?
The following factors determine how much your injury case is worth:
- How severe are your injuries?
- How much are your medical bills?
- Will you need ongoing medical treatment or equipment due to your injuries?
- Has the accident affected you mentally and emotionally?
- Has the crash affected your ability to work? Will you earn enough income to still care for yourself and your family?
- Have your injuries impacted your ability to participate in activities you used to enjoy?
- Due to your injuries, are you deprived of the benefits of a relationship with your spouse or significant other?
- Are you able to complete your activities of daily living independently, or do you need assistance?
Proud Partners of WABA & the Local Cycling Community
Our firm is a proud Partner and Legal Resource Member of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). This advocacy organization works to improve safety for bicyclists throughout the D.C. Metro area. Our firm has represented victims and families in DC, Maryland, and Virginia after preventable bicycle accidents abruptly changed their lives for over 50 years. We fully support efforts to make public roadways safer for everyone.
Contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. for a Free Consultation
Having knowledgeable legal representation can make a difference in your ability to obtain a fair financial recovery after an accident. So don’t hesitate to call a personal injury lawyer at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. We understand the new vulnerable user law in Washington, D.C., and we will fight for your rights.
Complete this online contact form or call 202-695-1575 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our accident attorneys. Contact us today.