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.

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Does Washington State Award Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases?

Posted Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Chris Thayer

A Washington judge recently ruled that she will not award punitive damages in a personal injury lawsuit involving a 2015 Ride the Ducks crash. On September 24, 2015, a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle crashed into a charter bus on Aurora Bridge, killing five North Seattle College international students and injuring dozens of other students and tourists. Multiple personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits were filed against the Ride the Ducks company and government officials, among other defendants.

The National Transportation Safety Board had determined that a defective axle on the Ducks vehicle caused the crash. In fact, the axles had been rebuilt in Missouri, where Ride the Ducks International is based. The plaintiffs tried arguing that because the rebuild happened in Missouri, that Missouri law should apply to their case. Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer held that Washington law, and not Missouri law, applied. Even though the rebuild occurred in Missouri, vehicle maintenance took place in Washington, as did the accident.

Shaffer also ruled that the crash did not meet the high bar set for awarding punitive damages in Washington.

Punitive Damages Law in Washington

Courts award punitive damages to punish wrongdoers for malicious, intentional, or reckless conduct. Punitive damages go beyond compensating the victim for his or her injuries and also seek to deter future wrongdoing. While most states permit punitive damages in personal injury cases, Washington generally does not. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, punitive damages may be awarded in malicious harassment lawsuits.

Compensatory Damages

Courts award compensatory damages to plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits to compensate them for their injuries. In other words, compensatory damages are actual damages that pay for the plaintiff’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related expenses. Here are a few things you should know about compensatory damages:

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