District of Columbia Reexamines Contributory Negligence Principles As Applied to Scooters and E-Bikes

On December 1st, the D.C. Council is scheduled to have a final vote on a new law allowing scooter and e-bike riders in the District of Columbia to collect civil damages in collision with vehicles, without the bar of pure contributory negligence principles.

“The District of Columbia, unlike more progressive states, applies pure contributory negligence principles where as little as 1% negligence can be a total bar to recovery, explains” personal injury attorney Jeffrey J. Downey.  “Most states now have some form of comparative negligence, which is a much fairer system of justice for those injured in accidents,” explains Downey.

The proposed bill, called the Vulnerable User Collision Recovery Amendment Act, would exempt riders of motorized bikes and scooters from the contributory negligence standard that governs tort claims in the District of Columbia.  See, Code of District of Columbia 50-2204.52 Contributory Negligence Information. https://code.dccouncil.us/dc/council/code/sections/50-2204.52.html

As the law is written now, a rider of a scooter or an e-bike rider is barred from recovering damages if the rider is one percent negligent.  The bill would expand on the 2016 law, which offered equity to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and riders of non-motorized bikes, ensuring them a greater chance at collecting medical bills after an accident.  It would also increase the comparative standard to incidents that occur on sidewalks.  Currently, the standards apply just to accidents on roadways.

DC Council member Mary Cheh, the lead sponsor of the bill, said vulnerable road users “would have to be found by the jury to be beyond 50 percent at fault for their injuries in ordered to be barred from recoveries.”  DC Council member Ward commented at a November 12 committee meeting that without shelter from the contributory negligence statute, individuals involved in accident cannot get an attorney to take their cases.

E-bikes and scooters work as a major artery in the transportation system in the city.  A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post revealed that 1 in 6 DC residents have used a e-scooters.  Opposition to the bill, however, does exist in the form of the insurance industry, which has said that high premiums for city residents would be passed on to residents.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser is a supporter of the bill, and if passed by the council December 1st, will go into effect following a 30-day congressional review.

If you have been injured on a motorized bike or scooter, call the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey for a free consultation.  We practice in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.  The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C. is located near Tysons Corner at 8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810, McLean, VA  22102

Phone: 703-564-7318

Email: jdowney@jeffdowney.com

On the web at www.jeffdowney.com