How Are Personal Injury Damages Calculated in Washington State?

by | Jan 14, 2024 | Personal Injury

Accidents happen when we least expect them, from car crashes to workplace incidents or sports injuries. Dealing with injuries resulting from someone else’s negligence or distraction, like a texting driver or an aggressive dog, can be challenging. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed as you navigate through the recovery process.

Fortunately, Washington state allows those injured because of another party’s negligence or recklessness to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover compensation (also known as damages) to help cover the costs triggered by the incident. Although Washington does not require injured victims to hire an attorney to file a claim, enlisting the guidance of an experienced and compassionate Washington personal injury lawyer is the best way to build a successful claim that maximizes the amount of compensation you recover.

One of the most important steps of the personal injury claims process is estimating the amount of damages you may be entitled to receive from the party responsible for causing your injuries. Several factors influence these calculations, so it’s helpful to work with your knowledgeable personal injury attorney to arrive at the most accurate estimate. As you begin the process of preparing a personal injury claim to recover the compensation you need to support the varied aspects of your recovery, let’s take a closer look at some of the key factors that determine how much compensation you may be able to receive from the at-fault party.

Types of Accidents That Lead to Personal Injury Claims

It’s important to recognize that not every accident leads to a personal injury claim. Many accidents are genuinely no one’s fault—they are merely random events that happen, and no person or party is to blame. However, some accidents arise because someone acted negligently or recklessly, and this behavior jeopardizes the safety of others, ultimately causing them harm. Auto accidents are often caused by an inattentive or intoxicated driver whose distraction prevents them from operating their vehicles safely. Essentially, if an investigation into the circumstances preceding the accident finds that someone’s actions are to blame, then they may be held legally and financially liable for their behavior.

Establishing Negligence or Recklessness

In order to file a successful personal injury lawsuit, you must prove that the other party acted negligently or recklessly. Negligence occurs when someone fails to uphold their duty of care. A driver that checks their phone instead of keeping their eyes on the road is a common example of someone failing to act reasonably or uphold their responsibility to operate their vehicle safely. In other words, negligence happens when a person acts in a way that disregards the safety of others and puts them at greater risk of injury. When someone acts in a more reckless way, such as intentionally disregarding posted speed limits and traveling at an excessive speed, their behavior escalates from negligence to recklessness (also called gross negligence). If you were injured because the other party failed to uphold their duty of care or intentionally disregarded your safety, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against them to recover the compensation you deserve.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Washington State

After navigating the initial confusion and disruption following your injury, you can begin to consider your options for seeking and obtaining compensation from those responsible for the accident.

It’s essential to recognize that the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington is three years from the date of the accident. This means that you must begin the filing process before the three-year window expires, or you forfeit your legal right to recover compensation from the other party. Although three years may seem like a long time, it passes very quickly for those who are navigating the complexities of their physical recoveries, lost wages, and other dramatic shifts in their lives. It’s usually in your best interest to hire a skilled and empathetic personal injury lawyer to help you move your claim forward as efficiently as possible. Together, you and your attorney can create a timeline that accounts for every important filing deadline to ensure that you can maximize your chances of obtaining a fair and favorable outcome.

Factors That Determine The Value of Your Claim

No two accidents are identical, which means that every personal injury claim has different factors and considerations. Some injuries, while painful and disruptive to your daily routine, will heal relatively quickly and without the need for costly medical procedures or long-term rehabilitation. Other accidents may cause catastrophic injuries like permanent paralysis, loss of limb function, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), or other long-term disabilities or medical conditions.

For the most part, accident victims who suffer severe injuries requiring long-term care or that cause permanent disfigurement or disability will likely be able to recover more compensatory damages than those whose injuries are less serious or life-altering. Estimating the current and future damages caused by the injury you suffered at the hands of the negligent or reckless party takes time and can be challenging to navigate on your own. Your dedicated and knowledgeable Washington personal injury attorney will work with you to assess every detail of your situation and use this wide range of information to estimate the amount of compensation you may be eligible to receive from the at-fault party. Below are just a few of the factors that play a role in arriving at this calculation.

Past and Future Medical Bills

It’s no surprise that accidents can cause severe injuries that require costly medical interventions and treatments. Keep track of your hospital bills, invoices from every visit to see your doctor, and physical therapy bills. As you prepare to file your claim, it’s important to recognize that you may be able to receive compensation for the medical treatments you have already had, as well as those that you know will occur in the future. For example, if your doctor has told you that you will need months of physical therapy or an extended stay in a rehabilitation facility, you can factor in these anticipated expenses as you calculate the value of your settlement.

Lost Wages or Reduced Earning Potential

Many injuries render accident victims unable to work for at least a few weeks, if not longer. When you prepare a personal injury claim, you can include paystubs to show the financial losses the at-fault party has caused you by preventing you from working. If your injuries cause permanent damage that reduces your earning potential, you may pursue compensatory damages to account for this significant loss. For example, if you work in the construction industry and lose an arm in an accident, this permanent disability will prevent you from continuing to earn a living in that field. Your attorney will work with you to determine how to account for your reduced earning potential in the personal injury claim you pursue.

Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish

Injuries are not only physical—many accident victims experience emotional and mental injuries as well. It’s common for an accident victim to develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and many other mental health challenges after experiencing such a harrowing event. While some of these injuries can be quantified (i.e., the cost of anti-anxiety medication, invoices from sessions with a mental health therapist, etc.), many of the adverse outcomes of the accident do not correspond to a concrete number or cost. Instead, you and your attorney will determine how to demonstrate the pain and duress caused to you by the party responsible for the accident. You have the right to seek non-economic damages (also called general damages), which refers to compensation that accounts for the physical and emotional pain and suffering you’ve endured.

Get Started With a Caring Personal Injury Attorney Today

The days and weeks after a traumatic accident can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you have suffered a severe injury. However, as disoriented as you may feel at this moment, you are never alone. When you enlist the support of a dedicated and experienced Washington personal injury lawyer, you can trust that this caring legal advocate will work hard to win you the compensation you deserve. Your attorney will assess the details of your situation and identify the most strategic path forward. Sometimes, just knowing that you have an ally in your corner fighting for your best interests can give you the peace of mind you need to focus more of your valuable energy on your recovery.

People who suffer injuries due to another party’s negligence or recklessness have the right to seek compensation to support the costs of their recovery. If you are interested in filing a personal injury claim in Washington State, reach out to Menzer Law today by calling our Seattle office at (206) 903-1818 to arrange a complimentary case review with an experienced and caring attorney.