By Patrick Malone
NOTE: This information is generally believed to be accurate, but consumers should always check with an attorney to make sure the law has not changed and to see if some exception might apply.
Here are the deadlines — also known as statutes of limitations — for filing various types of personal injury lawsuits in the District of Columbia.
Alfred Clarke Explains the Statute of Limitations in the District of Columbia
Three years from the date when the plaintiff know, or by reasonable diligence should know of all three of these: (1) an injury, (2) its cause, and (3) some evidence of wrongdoing. See D.C. Code § 12–301. This applies to negligence cases. Most intentional harms have a one-year deadline.
Exceptions and qualifiers
A claim for recovery of damages arising from sexual assault that occurred when the victim was less than 35 years of age must be brought by the later of victim’s 40th birthday or 5 years from when the victim knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act constituting sexual abuse. See D.C. Code § 12–301(11).
A claim for recovery of damages arising from sexual assault that occurred when the victim was 35 years of age or older must be brought by the later of 5 years of the assault or 5 years from when the victim knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act constituting sexual abuse. See D.C. Code § 12–301(12).
In cases where the statute of limitations period for filing a sexual assault claim has already lapsed, a claim may still be filed in Court by May 3, 2021. See Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018.
Cases against the D.C. government
A “notice” letter detailing the circumstances of the injury must be sent within six months of the injury to the following:
District of Columbia Office of Risk Management
441 4th Street, NW
Suite 800 South
Washington, D.C. 20001
Attention: Claims Bureau
The lawsuit itself follows the same deadlines as apply to cases against non-government defendants. See D.C. Code § 12–309.
Case against the U.S. government
A Form 95 (click here to get a blank form) must be sent to the government agency that employed the persons who caused the injury, within two years of the injury, or within two years of when you discovered you were injured. For more information on these claims, see our military malpractice information (similar for other non-military U.S. government institutions)
There is a two-year deadline after the death for filing a lawsuit seeking damages for loss of financial support and services that the deceased person provided to family members. See D.C. Code § 16–2702. This is called a “wrongful death” lawsuit, and until 2012, the deadline had been one year from the date of death. Now it is two years. For other types of damages, such as the deceased person’s pain and suffering between the time of the injury and death, there is a three-year deadline from the date of the injury. (This is called a “survival of actions” claim.)
Malpractice against a health care provider, hospital, nursing home, etc.
A letter notifying the provider of the claim must be sent at least 90 days before suit is filed. The letter needs to outline the claim in some detail. See D.C. Code § 16-2802. Failure to send this notice letter can be cause for having a lawsuit thrown out of court. See Lacek v. Washington Hospital Center Corp., 978 A.2d 1194 (D.C. 2009).
The District of Columbia applies the continuing treatment doctrine to determine when the limitations period begins if a patient is undergoing a course of treatment with a healthcare provider who commits malpractice. If malpractice occurs during the continuous treatment of a particular ailment or condition, the statute of limitations begins to run when the treatment by the healthcare provider for that injury or condition ends. Anderson v. George, 717 A.2d 876 (D.C. 1998).
Third-party workers’ compensation claims
These are third-party claims where the plaintiff has made a worker’s compensation claim in connection with same injury.
Six months from accepting the worker’s compensation award. See D.C. Code § 32-1535(b) and Biratu v. BT Vermont Ave., LLC, 962 A.2d 26 (D.C. 2008). Note: This 6-month deadline applies after either an award from the Commission or a settlement, which must be approved by the Commission. The clock starts to tick on the 6-month deadline on the date of the order by the Commission, or the date of the approval of any settlement by the Commission.
One year deadline for “libel, slander, assault, battery, mayhem, wounding, malicious prosecution, false arrest, or false imprisonment.” D.C. Code Ann. § 12-301(4).
Injuries to children
If a person is under 18 years of age when the injury happened, the lawsuit clock does not start ticking on the deadline until the 18th birthday, which means that in most negligence cases (but not those against the federal government) the deadline in D.C. is the child’s 21st birthday. See D.C. Code § 12–302.
Important cases that attorneys should know about:
These cases are examples of why it always pays to check with a lawyer to see if some exception might extend the deadline further.
- Bussineau v. President and Dirs. Of Georgetown College, 518 A.2d 423, 435 (D.C. 1986) – establishing the “triple trigger” rule.
- Brin v. S.E.W. Investors, 902 A.2d 784 (D.C. 2006) – example of a case where the court decided the clock only started running after the plaintiff was told by her doctor that there was a causal connection between her ailments and working in the building that she was worried about.
- Wagner v. Sellinger, 847 A.2d 1151 (D.C. 2004) – clock didn’t start to run until actual harm had occurred due to lawyer’s alleged malpractice, even though plaintiff had fired same lawyer much earlier.
- Doe v. Medlantic Health Care Group, Inc., 814 A.2d 939 (D.C. 2003) – reversing dismissal of a case where the plaintiff arguably was diligent in trying to get to the bottom of who had spread a rumor about him even though his suspicions started quite a long time before he sued.
Consult with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you believe you or a family member has been seriously injured from someone else’s fault – whether from medical malpractice, a defective product, a motor vehicle collision or any other kind of accidental injury — you may want to click here to contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a free evaluation of your case. You can also email us at email@example.com or call us at 202-742-1500 or 888-625-6635 toll-free. We will respond within 24 hours. There is no charge for our initial consultation.