Joan Gamble Palmer, 44, a Washington native who graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and later became a social worker in New York and California, died Jan. 13 at the Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, Calif., of injuries she received that day in a traffic accident.

An official of the California Highway Patrol said the car Mrs. Palmer was driving struck the rear of one that was stalled on Interstate Rte. 80 between Berkeley and Oakland. She was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Mrs. Palmer, who grew up in Bethesda, graduated from the College of William and Mary. She earned a master's degree in divinity at the Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts in 1968 and a master's degree in social work at Columbia University in 1975. She was a social worker in Westchester County, N.Y., in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

She moved to California from New York City in 1979 and was a psychiatric social worker at the Napa State Hospital in Imola, Calif., at the time of her death. She recently had become a licensed clinical social worker in California. She lived in Piedmont, Calif.

Survivors include her husband, Dr. David R. Palmer of Piedmont, and her stepfather and mother, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Littlepage of Arlington.