On October 4, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill that would change DC law to allow a pedestrian or bicyclist injured in a crash to recover damages so long as they are less than 50 percent at fault for the crash. Before the law was changed, the District was one of five jurisdictions in the country that prohibited any recovery by a pedestrian or bicyclist injured in a crash if they had any degree of fault, even if the driver was at greater fault.
The other states still following a so-called contributory negligence standard are Alabama, North Carolina, and the District’s neighbors Virginia and Maryland.
The bill, known as the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act (B21-0004), was sponsored by Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, Jack Evans, and David Grosso. It passed the DC Council on September 20 by a unanimous vote.
According to the District’s Department of Transportation, on average, 265 bicycle and 600 pedestrian crashes are reported to the Metropolitan Police Department each year.
Pedestrian safety and bicycling advocates in DC have worked since 2014, when another version of the bill was pending, to enact the legislation. Insurance groups and AAA-Atlantic opposed the bills, arguing that they would increase auto insurance premiums.
The measure now goes to the U.S. Congress for a thirty-day review period. A copy of the signed bill is available here.
More information about the bill is available here.