Personal Injury Damages WA State
A settlement is negotiated or the jury “calculates” a personal injury award by placing a dollar amount on several areas of loss or suffering. They will follow instructions provided by the judge and apply the law to the case. Note: there is no cap on damages in Washington personal injury cases
Common personal injury damages:
- Reimbursement for medical treatment
- Reimbursement for lost wages
- Reimbursement for damage to or loss of use of property that occurred as a result of the injury
- Money for loss of consortium (loss of income, companionship, child care, etc. from your spouse due to their injury)
- Money for emotional distress and/or pain and suffering
- Injury to personal reputation
- Punitive damages (money given as punishment)*
*Does Washington State allow punitive damages?
Punitive damages, sometimes called exemplary damages, are awarded by a court as a punishment to the wrongdoer. This type of damage is meant to serve as a deterrent to others from engaging in the same wrongful actions. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in special cases when someone commits an act that is particularly wanton, malicious, evil, violent, or fraudulent. In Washington State, punitive damages are not typically awarded; however, there are numerous statutory exceptions where punitive damages may be allowed.
Jury instructions vs. emotional appeal
Judges provide lengthy jury instructions, generally at the end of the trial. Instructions are always given orally but many judges now also provide a copy of the instructions in writing. These instructions are in depth, and cover everything from how jurors should deliberate to how they should analyze the witnesses and the evidence, and then explain the law of the case in detail. Judges makes it clear that the jury must reach a decision based strictly on the law even if they don’t like or agree with the law; they must not be swayed by emotion. When appellate courts review jury verdicts they do so under the assumption that jurors made their decision by applying the law as the judge explained it to them, rather than using their emotions.
In the case of Personal Injury trial, the judge will explain the law of negligence in general, and then offer a specific explanation of the laws that apply to that trial. If, for example, the trial is about an injury that happened at work, the judge will explain the law around work place accidents.
How emotional appeal is created
Despite instructions to follow the law and not use emotions, it is inevitable that jurors will be influenced by their emotions; at least a little. Plaintiffs’ lawyers understand human nature and recognize that if their case contains a strong emotional appeal to the jury, they have a better chance of winning.
The following types of evidence are known to create an emotional appeal to a jury:
- A friendly, pleasant plaintiff with a good family
- Pictures of the injury (without being overly graphic or gratuitous)
- A serious, permanent injury (juries typically award more money for a devastating permanent injury such as quadriplegia than for a wrongful death case)
- An injury to a child
- Proof that the defendant or the defendant’s witnesses lied about how the accident happened, or that they tried to cover up how their negligence caused the injury
Defense attorneys prefer to stay away from trying cases with strong emotional appeals because they know that juries are usually influenced by these appeals and will often give large awards.
How do jurors quantify pain and suffering?
Medical bills and lost earnings are calculated fairly easily but other damages can be more difficult to quantify. Putting a number on someone’s pain and suffering is often one of the more difficult tasks facing a jury, especially because judges don’t usually go into much detail about how the jury should determine damages for pain and suffering. Jurors must draw on their own perspective to imagine how they would feel if someone negligently did to them what the defendant did to the plaintiff. They will choose a dollar amount based on how much money they would want if they had the same injuries as the plaintiff and then reach a consensus among themselves, and that will be their verdict.
Disclaimer: State and federal laws in the United States change on a regular basis. Any information provided in this guide is meant solely for informational purposes and should not take the place of the advice of a lawyer. Only a qualified attorney can assess the merits of your case and provide an effective plan for counsel.
Seek the help of a Washington State personal injury lawyer
If you or a loved one is dealing with an accident or injury because of the negligence of another, you have enough on your plate. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times larger with the help of a personal injury lawyer. Call the competent Bellingham personal injury attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County and surrounding areas since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!