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Chapter 7 Jury Instructions Automobile Accidents D.C. Car Accident Attorney

Date08 Apr 2021

Chapter 7 Washington D.C. Jury Instructions Auto Cases D.C. Lawyer

Chapter 7 of the Washington D.C. Jury Instructions lists the guidelines that jurors should use when deliberating on automobile cases. 

The instructions open by discussing the duties of drivers and pedestrians. Driver’s must take ordinary care to avoid colliding with others and to avoid placing themselves in danger. Pedestrian’s duty is to protect his or her own safety. 

To assess ordinary care, the question one should ask is: what would a reasonable person do under similar circumstances? 

Automobile accidents are usually due to negligence. The comment attached to Instruction 7-1 details three parts of negligence law:

Assumption of Risk

Assumption of risk is an affirmative defense used when the plaintiff subjectively knows about the risk, but voluntarily assumes it. Once the plaintiff assumes risk, the defendant is relieved of his duty of care. 

Contributory Negligence

If the defendant creates a risk, but the plaintiff is found to have even slightly contributed to the accident, then he should not be awarded damages.

Last Clear Chance

Did the defendant have the last clear chance to avoid harm? If yes, then the jury should find for the plaintiff. If no, then the jury should find for the defendant. 

The instructions move on to the duty of drivers and pedestrians to maintain proper lookout. Both must reasonably observe traffic and other conditions to be safe. At a stop sign, a driver must yield the right of way to any vehicle within or near the intersection. 

auto accident jury instructions dc car accident lawyerThe jury is then informed of instances that may indicate negligence, but are not always. The right of way is not absolute; having the technical right of way does not absolve the driver of his duty to take ordinary care to avoid injuring others. Further, the mere occurrence of skidding or a rear-end collision does not indicate negligence. If skidding causes an accident, the jury must find that some negligent act or failure to act by the driver who skidded caused the skid. The court is to consider speed, visibility, and road conditions. Simmons v. Ward, 91 A.2d 566, 567 (D.C. 1952). 

We’ve all had the experience when a friend or family member asks to borrow our car. Maybe you were being “nice” and allowed him to drive it. In the eyes of the law, the owner of the vehicle is liable for any negligence of the person driving, if the driver gave express or implied consent to the driver. To prove that consent was not given, the driver must show “uncontradicted proof that the vehicle was not used with his permission.”

Strangely, the passenger can be found to contributorily negligent. The jury must find the passenger’s negligence was a proximate cause of the accident. If it does, then the passenger may not recover damages. The passenger’s failure to use “due care to protect himself” is contributory negligence.

The instructions conclude with pedestrians. Pedestrians must make reasonable observations about the traffic flow, and decide whether it is safe to crass. Drivers, though, must give the right of way to pedestrians crossing in marked crosswalks and/or have begun crossing on a walk signal.

Dealing with insurance companies and medical providers is difficult and stressful. If you were injured in an accident, it may be in your best interest to hire an attorney. The lawyers at Cohen & Cohen are experienced, having settled over 10,000 cases. Contact us today at (202) 955-4529 for a free case evaluation. 

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