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What Are Punitive Damages?

Colburn Law

After an accident, you may want to file a personal injury lawsuit against the person responsible for your injuries. Through your claim, you can recover damages for the economic losses you suffered, as well as your non-economic pain and suffering.

In these situations, you may wonder if you are eligible for a third category of compensation known as punitive damages. However, Washington does not allow personal injury victims to recover punitive damages in a lawsuit.

The Definition of Punitive Damages

When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you want to hold the at-fault party accountable for the losses you sustained due to their actions. Through a Washington injury claim, you can seek compensatory damages, which are designed to make a victim whole following an accident. You can hold the at-fault party liable for the financial, physical, and emotional losses you experienced due to the accident.

On the other hand, punitive damages are not intended to compensate a victim for the losses they experienced. Instead, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for committing intentional, outrageous, or reckless acts that cause injury to a victim. Washington is only one of a handful of states that do not allow victims to recover punitive damages.

Different states have different rules regarding punitive damages and who is eligible to claim them. However, common situations where punitive damages are often awarded include the following.

  • Cases involving acts of physical or sexual assault
  • Accidents caused by reckless behavior, such as driving under the influence or distracted driving
  • Intentionally harming a coworker or employee in the workplace
  • Acts of medical malpractice where a doctor engaged in gross negligence, such as performing a surgery while under the influence

Types of Compensation Available in Washington Personal Injury Claims

Although Washington injury victims are not allowed to recover punitive damages, they are eligible for economic and non-economic compensatory damages. Economic damages refer to your financial losses, while non-economic damages involve your physical and emotional pain and suffering.

Some of the most common types of damages available in Washington personal injury claims include the following.

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages during recovery periods
  • Disability accommodations, such as mobility equipment
  • Loss of future earnings if your injuries prevent you from returning to work
  • Specialized treatments such as rehabilitation or physical therapy
  • Physical pain and suffering, like chronic pain, permanent disability, and disfigurement
  • Emotional pain and suffering, such as mental anguish, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder

Several factors can influence the value of your potential settlement. For example, if you experience very severe injuries that require extensive medical care and lengthy recovery periods, you will likely have a higher settlement than someone who sustained scrapes and bruises.

For More Information Contact Us Today

Colburn Law

It can be difficult to identify all possible avenues to compensation and calculate your potential settlement, especially when it comes to future expenses and non-economic damages. In these situations, you need an attorney on your side who can represent your lawsuit and help calculate your potential award.

A Washington personal injury attorney can evaluate your case, review all pieces of evidence, and determine an accurate estimate of your potential award. He or she can also consult with expert witnesses, such as medical professionals, who can examine your case and estimate your long-term costs.

The experience, knowledge, and resources of an attorney can be very beneficial during a personal injury claim. As soon as possible following your accident, contact a Seattle personal injury lawyer to discuss your case and strategize your next steps.