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The D.C. Council will once again take up a bill that would better allow pedestrians and cyclists involved in collisions to collect damages.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced a bill Tuesday to allow pedestrians and cyclists to seek and recover damages through civil action unless they are found to be more negligent than the driver and any other named defendant. An affected pedestrian or cyclist would also not be able collect if his negligence caused his own injury. Currently, pedestrians and cyclists are not able to collect damages if they are found to be even one percent at fault in a collision.
Cheh was the holdout during the last Council session, when At-Large Councilmember David Grosso and then-Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells attempted (and failed) to move a similar bill through a Council committee. The main objection from Cheh in 2014 was the issue of “joint and several liability,” which allows a plaintiff to go after damages from any defendant found negligent. In the case of a cyclist hit by a driver without insurance, that cyclist could theoretically collect damages from the company that produced the vehicle’s windshield wipers, if fault with the wipers contributed to the crash. Cheh’s new version of the bill states: “In no event shall this act change or affect the doctrine of joint and several liability.”
Grosso co-introduced the latest version of the bill, along with Councilmembers Charles Allen, Anita Bonds, and Jack Evans. This is the fourth time a bill to limit or end contributory negligence has been introduced.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery