victim getting punitive damages
Personal injury law exists to make sure injured victims receive compensation for their financial and other losses. For example, if a motorist is struck in an intersection in a car accident and broke several bones, the driver who is responsible for the injury should pay the victim money. The victim should not have to shoulder the financial losses associated with an accident when they are not to blame for it.

Victims can receive two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. We discuss both of them below. You should know at the outset, however, that Washington law does not give victims the chance to seek punitives. Instead, you will need to rely only on compensatory damages.

Compensatory Damages

These damages are designed to make the victim whole. A victim can receive compensatory damages for various economic and non-economic losses that stem from an accident.

Economic losses include things like:

  • Medical treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage

Non-economic losses include things like:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

During a trial, a jury will need to decide how much money a defendant must pay to make up for the accident. Economic losses are easy to calculate, since a jury can look at medical bills, receipts, and pay stubs to arrive at a number. However, they will use their experience and common sense to determine how much money can make up for pain and suffering and other intangible losses.

Punitive Damages

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages have a different focus. They are not designed to make victims “whole.” Instead, they are designed to punish a defendant for particularly bad or offensive conduct.

Many states allow victims to receive punitive damages when they are intentionally injured by the defendant or where the defendant has been grossly negligent. This is conduct the state wants to deter others from committing, so they make punitive damages available.

However, punitive damages in Washington state are typically not available. The state believes that they are contrary to public policy, so you cannot receive them in personal injury cases. As Washington’s Supreme Court has stated, punitive damages are only allowed in Washington if expressly authorized by a statute. This is rarely the case for our personal injury clients, so you should not expect to receive punitive damages in your lawsuit.

Meet with Kapuza Lighty to Discuss Compensation after an Accident

After an accident, it is perfectly natural to wonder how much money you can receive in a settlement. We receive questions from the public regularly on this issue. The truth is that everyone’s situation is different, and we often need to perform a deep analysis of the facts of your case to estimate how much you are eligible to receive.

To start the process with one of our Yakima personal injury attorneys, please contact us right away. We offer a free consultation to members of the public who have been injured in an accident. You can schedule yours by calling 509-866-4166 or filling out our contact sheet.


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