Pain and Suffering Damages in Washington

Washington may be a wet wonderland, but that never really bothered you. Until one day you suffered through a real-life Grey's Anatomy episode when your ferry crashed, and your life has not been the same since. Whether you're loyal to the Cougars or the Huskies, if your injury left you without love for Jones Soda or Theo's Chocolate, you may be entitled to pain and suffering damages in Washington.

Below, you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about pain and suffering damages in Washington.

Statute of Limitations

  • 3 years for most personal injuries (§ 4.16.080)
  • 3 years from date of injury, or if discovered after 3 years, within 1 year of discovery, for a total of no more than 8 years from date of injury for medical malpractice (§ 4.16.350)
  • No more than 12 years from date the product was delivered for product defect claims (§ 7.72.060)
  • Specific filing requirements apply for construction defect actions (§ 64.50.020)

Limits on Damages

  • $5,000 cap on personal injury claims against the parents of a child who willfully and maliciously inflicted personal injury (§ 4.24.190)
  • Pain and Suffering damages are capped at an amount determined by multiplying 0.43 by the average annual wage and by the life expectancy of the person incurring noneconomic damages, no less than 15 years (§ 4.56.250)
  • Other Limits

What are pain and suffering damages?

In Washington, pain and suffering damages are part of a larger group of compensatory damages known as "noneconomic damages". Noneconomic damages in Washington means subjective, nonmonetary losses, including:

I think I might be partially to blame for my injury. Will that prevent me from recovering pain and suffering damages?

Probably not. You will be pleased to learn that Washington uses a rule called "pure comparative fault." This rule requires courts to allocate fault amongst the parties responsible for an injury and then simply reduce the plaintiff's damage award in proportion to his or her level of fault. In Washington, you could theoretically be 90% at fault for your injury and still recover 10% of the amount of damages the jury awards you.

I was hurt last year. Can I still file a lawsuit to recover damages?

In most cases, yes. In Washington, you have two years to file a claim if the injury was inflicted intentionally. For accidental injuries, you have three years to file a lawsuit. If you were hurt because of a medical professional's mistake, you have three years from the date of injury, or if three years go by before you notice the injury, you have one year from the date of discovery, but never more than eight years from the date of the medical malpractice. If you were injured by a construction defect, there are specific procedural requirements you must follow when you file your lawsuit.

Does Washington impose any limitations on the amount of money I can recover?

Yes. If a child under 18 who is living at home willfully and maliciously inflicted personal injury on you, you will only be able to recover a maximum of $5,000 from that child's parents.

In addition, no matter who caused your injury, pain and suffering damages are capped at a very specific amount: 0.43 X the average annual wage of the person incurring the pain and suffering damages X the life expectancy of the person incurring the pain and suffering damages. Note that, for the purposes of computing this maximum amount, the life expectancy is presumed to be at least 15 years. So let's say you happen to make exactly the average annual wage in Washington: $54,829 as of 2014. The minimum amount your damages would be capped at would be 0.43 X $54,829 X 15 = $353,647.05.

Where can I get a free review of my claim?

As you can see, Washington has some of the most plaintiff-friendly laws in the nation. But the caps on noneconomic damages and the time limits on filing are confusing for anyone, let alone someone overwhelmed with injury rehabilitation. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, let a skilled Washington attorney review your claim for free.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.