In spite of the misconceptions of many attorneys who handle cases in both D.C. and Maryland, the District is a good place for victims to settle or take to verdict tort cases. Juries in Washington D.C. are largely extremely fair to personal injury victims, and the system is also fair: unlike most jurisdictions in 2015, there is no cap on pain and suffering damages in Washington D.C.The Court System
The District of Columbia Court System is comprised of the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals. The Superior Court has five divisions: the Civil Division, the Criminal Division, the Family Division, the Domestic Violence Division and the Probate Division. Unlike most state courts, which are made up of different court systems that each have specific functions and separate jurisdictions, the Superior Court has jurisdiction over all legal matters in Washington D.C. The Court of Appeals handles all appeals of Superior Court cases. Any appeal from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals goes directly to the United States Supreme Court.
The Superior Court is located in the heart of Washington D.C. at 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W. in the Judiciary Square. The main courthouse, the Moultrie Courthouse, contains most of the courtrooms and relevant administrative offices. It is really in the eye of the storm, just a few blocks from the Capital Building, Smithsonian and other historical attractions. The other buildings that comprise the Judiciary Square house many of the court agencies and services.
The court itself has a Chief Judge and, in 2015, 61 associate judges. Each judge is assigned to a particular division for a designated length of time, usually 18 months to 2 years. During this time, the judge hears only cases filed in that Division. We have found this to be an extremely efficient system since each judge has only one area of the law to focus on at a time and are typically well-versed in current case law and trends.
In general, the Civil Division of the Superior Court runs very smoothly and efficiently. While our attorneys have found that trial dates are often postponed by the court, the parties are always given ample notice, months usually, so that rearrangements can be made without any hardship or costs to the parties.Administration of Civil Tort Cases
With respect to the administration of personal injury case, there have been some productive changes in the way cases are handled in the District of Columbia. In car crash injury cases, both the mediation date and the pretrial conference will be set at the initial scheduling conference, with the pretrial date calendared within 2-3 weeks of the mediation date. Withrespect to dispositive motions that are not anticipated, the time built into the track for the filing and ruling of such motions will now be completely eliminated. This should help move auto accident cases in Washington D.C. move along with greater ease.
In each civil case there is an initial scheduling conference. At this scheduling conference, the parties are given the option of selecting civil mediation or case evaluation. Both of these settlement tools are run by the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division of the court. Mediation is by far the most popular option among Washington D.C. injury lawyers. Mediations are conducted by an attorney from the community who is experienced in the applicable area of law. The mediator hears from both parties and attempts to facilitate settlement discussions. Mediators do not give an opinion of the value of the case or probable outcomes on liability. They will point out, however, in conversations with each side individually, problems with the case and hurdles that will need to be overcome to prevail. Mediations are held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday in the Mediation Center, Suite 114 of the Superior Court, Court Building A, 515 5th Street, N.W.
Case evaluation, on the other hand, is also run by an attorney from the community, but the evaluator will give an opinion on damages, liability, and chances of prevailing. This option is sometimes unpopular among attorneys because it tends to give an artificial floor and ceiling to the value of the case and can, in fact, stall settlement negotiations. Moreover, mediator quality is pot luck.Getting a Personal Injury Lawyer
We handle tort claims in the District. If you have been injured, call our lawyers at 800-553-8082 or select here for a free consultation.