Until 2016, only four states and the District of Columbia in the United States retain the antiquated and unfair contributory negligence standard.
In 2012, there were 564 crashes involving people riding bicycles in the District of Columbia and 458 people were injured. Many of those injured will receive little to no compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages and damages to their property. The system fails them at every level. The Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2015 is a desperately needed change to DC’s antiquated and unfair negligence standard.
Often referred as the “one percent” rule, contributory negligence bars a plaintiff’s recovery if they are greater than one percent at fault for the damages. The majority of states have abolished the contributory negligence standard in favor for a more fair comparative negligence scheme.
The District of Columbia’s continued recognition of contributory negligence as a complete defense in a negligence action, when combined with the uneven enforcement of bicycle laws by the District’s police officers and lack of understanding of bicycle laws among the general public (i.e. potential jurors), makes recovery for damages suffered by cyclists injured in collisions with motor vehicles difficult and unpredictable. WABA works diligently to educate cyclists, police officers, and citizens on the proper application of bicycle laws. However misunderstandings still permeate and commonly lead to improper enforcement and conflict.
To ensure fairness of recovery for injury, to promote fairness in the law, and to modernize the approach of the District of Columbia in the field, the Council should cease recognition of contributory negligence as a complete defense to a tort claim.
Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) introduced the Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2015 on January 6th, 2015. The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6), Jack Evans (Ward 2), David Grosso (At-Large), Anita Bonds (At-Large) and co-sponsored by Yvette Alexander (Ward 7). Read the full proposed legislation on the DC Council website
On April 21, 2016, the Judiciary Committee voted 3-0 to move the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act out of committee and recommended it for consideration by the full D.C. Council.
Download a one-page fact sheet
On Tuesday, July 12th, the full DC Council voted unanimously
to move the bill forward. We expect the second reading and final passage sometime this fall. We will update as we have more details.
News & Updates
- Mayor Bowser Signs #FixContrib Bill at WABA Happy Hour – October 18, 2016
- One step closer to reforming contributory negligence in DC – July 12, 2016
- D.C. Council Unanimously Passes Bike and Pedestrian Safety Bill Without Debate – July 12, 2016
- The Fix Contrib bill has been delayed another two weeks. – June 29, 2016
- The Insurance Lobby is Trying to Block A Contributory Negligence Fix – June 24, 2016
- A Law That Blames You, Instead of the Driver Who Hit You, Could Soon Meet It’s End – May 11, 2016
- What’s Next for the Contributory Negligence Bill? – April 22, 2016
- UPDATE: Big legislative Success this afternoon! – April 21, 2016
- The Contributory Negligence Bill is Moving! – April 19, 2016
- Where’s that Crash Victims Bill? – October 29, 2015
- Crash Victim Bill Moving Forward in D.C. Council – June 24, 2015
- DC Judge Upholds Three Foot Law; Case Highlights Need for Contrib Reform – January 12, 2015
- Councilmember Cheh Introduces Bill for Crash Victims – January 6, 2015
- A New Year, A New Attempt To Change D.C.’s Bike Crash Liability Law – WAMU, January 5, 2015
- Council Takes Up Bike-Damages Bill—Again – Washington City Paper, January 6, 2015
- Contributory Negligence Bill Tabled for 2014 – November 25, 2014
- Council Committee Postpones Vote On Contributory Negligence, Moves Forward With Child Sex Trafficking Bill – DCist, November 7, 2014
- D.C. postpones vote on bill that would protect injured cyclists and pedestrians – Washington Post, November 7, 2014
- Cyclists May Have To Wait Until Next Year To Change Contributory Negligence Law – WAMU, November 7, 2014
- D.C. Bill Would Assure Coverage for Pedestrians, Cyclists Struck by Vehicles – NBC Washington, November 6, 2014
- D.C. bill would make it easier for cyclists, pedestrians to collect damages – Washington Post, November 6, 2014
- Cyclist, Pedestrian Advocates Plan To Hold Council Accountable If Negligence Bill Fails – DCist, November 6, 2014
- Rally for Justice on Thursday at 10am – November 4, 2014
- Keeping Score on DC Legislative Positions, Starting with the Contrib Bill – October 30, 2014
- Candidates on Contributory Negligence – October 27, 2014
- Ask the DC Council to Support the Bicycle Bill – October 24, 2014
- A Fuller Description of the Contributory Negligence Problem for Bicyclists – October 20, 2014
- D.C. Council to consider giving bicyclists more rights – WJLA, September 30, 2014
- D.C. Council weighs making it easier for bicyclists to collect insurance after a crash – Washington Post, September 29, 2014
- Read: WABA’s Testimony in Support of Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2014 – September 29th, 2014
- 10 Questions about Contributory Negligence, answered – September 17, 2014
- Contributory What? – September 11, 2014
- Ensuring fairness for bicyclists involved in collisions – Blog Post by David Grosso, July 28, 2014
- Bill Would Make It Easier For Cyclists To Collect Damages – DCist, July 28, 2014
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has prepared a briefing memorandum on the issue of contributory negligence. Please contact WABA Advocacy Director Tamara Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-518-0524 x212.