Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

I am here to help you.

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Can I Get Punitive Damages for My Washington Personal Injury Case?

Posted Friday, October 30, 2020 by Chris Thayer

Punitive damages are a unique type of award that has little to do with compensation, but instead is focused more on deterring others from acting in a certain way and punishing wrongdoers. Under Washington law, punitive damages are greatly disfavored as a form of relief for injury victims, but this does not mean it is impossible. Experienced Washington trial attorneys know that there are a few tricks of the trade, so to speak, that can sometimes help an injured person recover significant compensation, including punitive damages.

**Understanding What Damages are in General

**Punitive damages are not compensation. In general, there are two types of damages that all people can attempt to claim for their injuries. These are compensatory damages and non-compensatory. Most damages are designed to be compensatory, meaning they “compensate” the injured person or their family. These include things like pain and suffering and medical expenses. Non-compensatory damages are designed to satisfy a policy goal generally, such as statutory damages and punitive awards.

*Compensatory Damages:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life - Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses - Loss of income and support

*Non-compensatory* - Punitive damages - Statutory damages

*Economic vs. Non-economic Damages* Compensatory damages can also be further broken down into two distinct groups — economic and non-economic. Economic damages are forms of compensation that are designed to make the injured person “whole” again financially. These would be things like medical expenses and lost income. Whereas, non-economic damages are things like pain and suffering, which cannot be easily measured in numerical terms.

*Washington’s View of Punitive Damages* The best way to explain how Washington law views punitive awards is found in Grays Harbor County v. Bay City Lumber Co., a case where the court stated that “punitive damages are generally not recoverable under Washington law unless expressly authorized by statute.” Other cases, such as Dailey v. North Coast Life Ins. Co., have stated that these types of awards are actually “contrary to Washington’s public policy.” These court decisions are even referenced in the comments to Washington County Jury Instructions.

However, there are exceptions. For instance, when the State of Washington is the plaintiff, it can recover treble damages (i.e. three times the award) in some instances. See RCW 19.86.090. There are also situations, such as consumer fraud claims and claims in which a defendant acted so egregiously and recklessly in disregard for human life that the only way to properly punish them and render justice is to award punitive damages. It is frankly a high standard to meet.

*Get the Best Legal Representation * If you or a loved one are seriously injured in a catastrophic event, or a loved one dies due to the carelessness of someone else, you owe it to yourself and your family to contact Pivotal Law Group today. Consultations are free, and you may be surprised by the kind of damages to which you are entitled. Act fast because Washington law imposes strict time limits on securing compensation. If you wait too long, you could forever lose your right to be compensated.