victim getting punitive damages

In Washington State, victims in personal injury cases cannot recover punitive damages.

Washington is one of only four states which do not allow punitive damages in personal injury cases.

This means that victims cannot seek extra damages when injuries result from intentional, outrageous, or reckless conduct.

As a result, victims in Washington personal injury cases may seek only compensatory damages. Compensatory damages awards are designed only to make the victim whole, not to punish or deter the defendant. This means that your settlement amount or court award will be lower than if it included punitive damages.

If you are an injured victim, you should talk to a Washington State personal injury lawyer today. A lawyer can help you get the compensation for your injuries that you deserve.

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, and
  • Property damage.

Non-economic losses include things like:

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Disability,
  • Disfigurement, and
  • 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. 

Punitive damages are available in personal injury cases in all states except Louisiana, Nebraska, Puerto Rico, and Washington. States allow personal injury victims to receive punitive damages when they are intentionally injured by the defendant, where the defendant has been grossly negligent, or when the defendant’s conduct is outrageous. 

States permit recovery of punitive damages in these situations because they want to prevent intentional, outrageous, and reckless conduct from occurring. However, most states that allow punitive damages cap the maximum amount victims can recover.

For example, some states set their cap as a multiple of the compensatory damages award. Some states even take part of the punitive damages award and allocate it into different state funds.

But in Washington State, punitive damages are typically not available. Victims in personal injury cases cannot receive them because the state believes that punitive damages are contrary to public policy.

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.

However, Washington personal injury victims can still recover the full value of their damages. Unlike many other states, Washington does not cap economic or non-economic damages. This means that victims can seek compensation for their full amount of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

You should talk to a Washington State personal injury lawyer to help you recover the amount of damages you deserve.

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.

Related articles that you might be interested in:

Tort Claims Against Washington State: What You Need to Know
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable in Washington?


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