Council tries again to compensate crash victims

Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced legislation on the first day of the DC Council’s new session that would make it easier for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists to receive compensation for injuries and losses after a crash involving a motor vehicle.

The new bill follows a debate during the last Council session over legislation to end contributory negligence, a legal standard which resulted in pedestrians and cyclists sometimes being denied compensation if they were partially at fault in a crash. The earlier legislation, introduced by Councilmember David Grosso, failed after insurance company representatives and trial lawyers objected. The main concern of trial lawyers was that ending contributory negligence would lead to ending joint and several liability, a standard that allows a victim to collect compensation from a responsible party with greater assets if another responsible party has no assets.

The new bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Grosso, Anita Bonds, Jack Evans and Charles Allen and was introduced on January 6. The bill would codify common law that says a non-motorized road user such as a pedestrian, bicyclist or wheelchair user is entitled to receive compensation if they are not more than 50 percent responsible for a collision. The act would not change or affect contributory negligence.

No hearings are scheduled at this time. Coverage of this issue is also available from WAMU and the Washington City Paper.