There are two main types of damages awarded in a personal injury case: punitive and compensatory. Unlike compensatory damages, which are based on the victim’s loss, punitive damages are a punishment in the form of a financial penalty imposed on the party at fault for their reckless, malicious, or intentional actions.
The reason behind the award is not just to compensate a victim but to act as a deterrent to any similar misconduct from the responsible party in the future. Punitive damages also send a message to the public that the state doesn’t tolerate such conduct. Here is a breakdown of how the damages work and when they are awarded.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are awarded in a personal injury case, with the sole intention of punishing one party rather than offering compensation; the damages are not tied directly to any form of tangible injury. Although the damages are technically not compensation for the plaintiff’s loss, the plaintiff ends up receiving the damages from the defendant when awarded in a personal injury case.
So, when are the damages awarded? Punitive damages are awarded in cases that show intentional misconduct from the party at fault. In some states, the court requires that the defendant had acted with deceit, malice, or recklessness. The most common factor that justifies punitive damages in a host of states is the show of gross negligence.
What Is Gross Negligence
Gross negligence refers to conduct that’s so reckless, that it constitutes making a conscious indifference or disregard to another individual’s rights and safety. Naturally, negligence involves a violation or breach of one’s duty to act with reasonable care. Gross negligence involves an extra element of recklessness. When an individual is grossly negligent, the individual not only breached their duty of care to a party but also intended to make the breach.
Notably, when there’s an element of gross negligence, employees and government entities may lose their otherwise applicable immunity protecting them from personal injury claims.
Sanctions for Lacking Reasonable Basis
There must be a show of reasonable basis for an injured party to seek redress through punitive damages through a personal injury claim. When an injured party provides limited evidence of gross negligence, intentional misconduct, deceit, or no evidence at all, the court can levy some monetary sanctions on the attorney and injured person for seeking the damages with no reasonable basis.
Limitations on the Award of Punitive Damages
Many states have put caps or limitations on the award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are severe financial punishment and could cripple an individual’s finances. For instance, In Florida, damages awarded should never exceed three times the total award of the victim’s compensatory damages.
Punitive damages shouldn’t exceed $500,000, irrespective of the amount being less than three times the compensatory damages award.
Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Washington?
Washington is one of the strictest states in the award of punitive damages. While many states worldwide consider the award of punitive damages in personal injury cases, Washington, on a general note, does not award these damages, aside from compelling cases.
Washington has several exceptions; for instance, the courts may award punitive damages to a plaintiff that suffered malicious harassment through lawsuits. Additionally, the supreme court in Washington states that punitive damages may be allowed when expressly authorized by a statute.
However, it is not impossible to get an award for punitive damages in a case in Washington. All you need is to prove the gross negligence of the party at fault beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced and seasoned attorney will know just how to place your facts and get you the punitive damages you deserve for the offender’s maliciousness.
Irrespective of the strictness in the award of punitive damages in Washington, it’s possible for victims to recover and get the full value of the damages they suffered. Unlike very many states, Washington does not have any cap on the economic and non-economic compensatory damages. This means that you can seek full recovery for all your lost wages, medical bills, and no cap limitation on the recovery you can get for pain and suffering.
Consult an Attorney
After an accident that leaves you injured, it’s natural to wonder how much money you can get in a settlement. The difference between what you deserve and what you are compensated for depends on the choice of attorney you make. All the steps you take from the time of accidents will matter in the outcome of your case. If you wish to recover punitive damages, speak to an attorney, specifically, a personal injury attorney.
Though Washington is strict with its award of punitive damages, remember that every case is different, and your outcome solely relies on the facts of your case. Additionally, the law grows by the day, and new precedents are set in landmark cases, don’t be afraid to make that claim.