Motor Vehicle Negligence

A claim for motor vehicle negligence is based upon the failure of a motor vehicle operator to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances in the operation of a motor vehicle. The operator’s duty to exercise reasonable care includes, for example, the duty to keep a proper lookout while driving and the duty to devote full time and attention to driving. To establish a claim, a person must show that the operator’s failure to exercise reasonable care caused him or her to suffer personal injury.

A claim for motor vehicle negligence can be based upon an operator’s failure to obey a traffic law if the operator’s failure caused another person to suffer a personal injury. For example, a driver may be negligent as a matter of law if the driver failed to stop at a red light and thereby hit the victim in a cross-walk.

A victim of motor vehicle negligence often can recover damages under the operator’s motor vehicle insurance, and in some cases may even be able to recover under his or her own motor vehicle insurance. An owner of a motor vehicle located within the District of Columbia generally must maintain certain minimum levels of insurance coverage, though many owners have significantly higher levels of coverage.

A claim for motor vehicle negligence generally must be brought within three years of the date on which the claim accrues.

For information about other civil claims recognized in the District of Columbia, click here. For information about how to use this guide, click here.

[Sources: Douglas C. Melcher, Tort Claims and Defenses in the District of Columbia § 12 (2014), and legal authorities cited therein.]