There are various damages you can pursue in a civil lawsuit. In personal injury cases, the plaintiff usually asks for compensatory damages, but they can ask for punitive damages if the law permits it. Each state in the U.S. has its laws regarding punitive damages.
If you are resident in Washington or were injured in Washington, you can sue for compensation but punitive damages are rarely awarded. Washington State punitive damages require the victim to prove the defendant was more than responsible. The victim needs to show the defendant was a danger, and the danger was intentional.
Here is what you need to know about punitive damages.
Punish the Defendant
The main reason why the court will award punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their actions or omissions. Punitive damages act as a deterrent. Hopefully the defendant will not repeat the act or behavior if the court orders them to pay compensation and punitive damages.
Discretion of the Judge
Even if you ask for punitive damages, it is not compulsory that the court will award them. In most states, the judge has the discretion to award damages or not. The judge will examine the evidence and decide whether issuing punitive damages is appropriate.
To prove that the court should award you punitive damages, you can show how the defendant’s actions were reckless, fraudulent, wanton or malicious.
Amount Awarded as Punitive Damages
In some states, the amount of punitive damages is limited to a specific amount by statutes.
For instance, in Florida, the judge cannot award punitive damages that exceed three times the amount the plaintiff seeks as compensatory damages or $500,000. You should check the law regarding punitive damages in your state, or consult a personal injury lawyer near you.
Punitive Damages Vary by State
The laws regarding punitive damages will vary by state. Some states do not award punitive damages in any case. Washington state is among the few states that punitive damages are rarely awarded. If you are injured by malice actions within Washington, winning punitive damages will be an uphill battle.
Other compensation you may seek in Washington include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damage is awarded to compensate for losses including medical bills, lost wages, property damage, among others. Non-economic damage is awarded to compensate for losses including pain and suffering, disability, loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment of life, among others.
Washington state does not put a limit on how much the court can award via economic or non-economic damages. You can seek full compensation for all the ways your life has been negatively impacted by the incident.
The “Reasonable Basis” Rule
When you ask the court to award punitive damages, you have the responsibility to prove the defendant’s actions or omissions were reckless, malice, or intentional. You’ll need a preponderance of evidence to support your claim if you intend to win.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you need to make them financially accountable for their actions. There are several compensatory damages you can seek depending on your losses. An excellent personal injury attorney will know which damages to seek, and will work doggedly to win you the maximum amount available.