Understanding Damages in Your Personal Injury Case

Posted by Russell West | Jul 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

The family of Washington state resident Antonio Zambrano-Montes is moving forward with a lawsuit against the city of Pasco, Washington.

Zambrano-Montes was gunned down earlier this year by police in response to what police claim was an incident instigated by Zambrano-Montes. Police claim that Zambrano-Montes was throwing rocks as large as softballs at them from a distance. The police claim that they attempted to use a Taser against Mr. Zambrano-Montes, but that it proved ineffective.  Allegedly, the police then fired their weapons at Mr. Zambrano-Montes, whose body later tested positive for methamphetamines.

Mr. Zambrano-Montes' family is seeking 4.8 million dollars from the city, claiming that because Mr. Zambrano-Montes did not “represent a threat of grievous bodily harm to anyone”, his death ultimately amounted to an “execution”.

Whether or not the court decides to award Mr. Zambrano-Montes' family the amount they seek, or even if the case will go to trial is unknown. Plenty of cases are settled out of court, and claimants do not always receive the amount that they are seeking in situations where the case does reach court. If the case does go to trial, however, the issue of damages will be one of the larger considerations.

How Do Damages Work?

There are generally two types of awards available in a standard tort case - punitive and compensatory. Within these categories there are different sub-categories of damages. Depending on the injuries suffered by the victim, the court will award compensation based on each of these specific categories, usually with the goal of making the plaintiff whole.  

What are Compensatory Damages?

The goal of compensatory damages is to provide compensation to the injured party. Compensatory damage awards are rehabilitative awards, seeking to restore the injured party to the position that they would have been in but for the actions of the party that harmed them. In achieving this goal, courts awarding compensatory damages will look both forwards and backwards. That is, they will consider damages that the victim has already suffered and those that they can reasonably expect to suffer in the future.

Consider a situation where Plaintiff A has been injured because of the negligence of Party B.  Because of her injury, Plaintiff A can no longer work, and is unlikely to be able to find a job in her field any time soon. Additionally, she has months of surgeries to look forward to as she begins her road to recovery. In this situation, the court might award Plaintiff A any lost wages she has suffered as a result of her injury as well as any medical bills associated with it.  Additionally, the court may order the defendant to pay for certain medical expenses directly related to the injury that may be necessary in the future as well as lost wages in the future.

Compensatory damages can cover anything ranging from emotional stress, future and present emotional or physical suffering, property damages, and a litany of other types of damage.  Courts will consider a number of issues in determining compensatory damages.

What are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages seek to inflict some level of punishment on the responsible party.  They can sometimes be symbolic. For example, in late 2014, an Indiana based schoolteacher was awarded damages as a result of her lawsuit against her employer. The court awarded her $75,000.00 in lost wages, $125,000.00 for medical expenses, and $1.00 in punitive damages.  The $1.00 award is not likely to have any real affect on either party, but it does acknowledge that the actions of the victim's employer were worth of punishment beyond the compensation awarded to her.

In other cases, punitive damages can serve as a deterrent. Large awards serve as a warning to others who might consider engaging in practices similar to the tortfeasor (the party responsible for the harm suffered by the victim).

Understanding what damages you can reasonably expect in a court proceeding requires a strong grasp of the law. Like some areas of the law, the logic involved can sometimes be counterintuitive. As with most legal issues, you should consider speaking to an experienced attorney if you have any questions concerning a potential claim.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Are you considering filing a personal injury suit? If you are seeking the help of a Washington personal injury lawyer, reach out to the West Law Office today. Russell West has years of experience in safeguarding the interests of his clients, and is a staunch defender of his client's personal rights. If you need help or have questions, do not hesitate; reach out to the West Law Office today for a free consultation, and put your interests in the hands of a zealous advocate.   

About the Author

Russell West

Russell West from West Law Office, located in Spokane, Washington represents clients in areas of criminal traffic, misdemeanors, and personal injury. DUI’s, Reckless Driving, Negligent driving, Hit and Run, and Driving with Suspended license are the majority of criminal traffic violations. Drug Charges, Theft, and Domestic Violence account for most of the other criminal cases Russell handles.

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Spokane Attorney Russell West practice areas include: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury, Motorcycle Accidents, Slip and Falls, DUIs, DOL Hearings, Criminal Traffic, Expungement/Vacating Records, and Insurance Bad Faith,

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