Economic damages are a core component of a personal injury case. They are objectively verifiable monetary losses associated with an injury caused by another person or entity's negligence (or sometimes intentional act). For a successful personal injury case, the victim must be able to prove economic damages before winning a settlement or an award through the courts.
What Constitutes Economic Damages in Washington?
Economic damages are a type of compensation to cover the costs of the following expenses.
- Past and future medical expenses. These expenses can be the initial emergency visit and then can include anything related to a care plan, like:
- Follow-up appointments
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech or cognitive therapy
- Dental expenses
- Long-term care
- Lost wages, past and future
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of employment or business opportunities
- Loss of use of property
- Costs to repair or replace property
- Economic value of domestic services
- Transportation costs
- Funeral costs, if the injured party dies
Not all of the above examples of economic damages will apply, but the ones that do, you will need to support the claim with verifiable proof.
How are Economic Damages Proven in Washington State?
To prove economic damages, you must prove that the injury was the cause of those damages; and you must prove the economic damages you claim you sustained.
When thinking about what evidence you need to prove that an action or omission caused your injury, you must consider the alleged at-fault party's duty to you. If there was no duty, there are no compensable damages. Then you must show by a preponderance of the evidence (sometimes you will be required to prove it by clear and convincing evidence) that the action or omission caused your injury that led to the damages.
Examples of Evidence to Prove Causation
- Eye witness statements
- Police reports
- Expert opinions
- Accident reconstruction reports
- Medical records
These things can all be used to build a case that proves one person or entity's action or omission caused your injury.
Next, you will need proof of the nature and extent of the economic damages, which means you have to consider the nature and extent of your injury. If all you sustained is a broken arm and it is back to normal and functional by the time negotiations with the insurance company start, you only need to prove past wage loss and past/current medical bills and the like. If, however, the injury means years of therapy, you will have to consider future lost wages, loss of earning capacity, future medical bills for future medical treatment, and more. Proving the latter is more complicated and will require more expert analysis, opinion, and testimony.
Examples of Evidence to Prove Economic Damages
- Medical documents and other paperwork
- Invoices (especially for mechanic's repairs, etc.)
- Fair market value prices
- Expert analysis and testimony
- Eyewitness statements
It is critical to make sure you think of everything and have solid proof to demonstrate the monetary value of all the economic damages you or a loved one claim in your lawsuit.
How are Compensatory Economic Damages Calculated in Washington State?
Calculating economic damages is pretty straightforward once it is proven that the injury was indeed caused by a person or entity's negligence. You simply add up all the receipts and bills, including receipts for property damage repairs, paid medical bills, transportation or domestic help expenses, attorney fees and costs, and more.
The trickier part comes when there are future losses to consider. This will require expert testimony, like economic analysts and medical professionals. These experts will consider your injuries, your income, your potential income, and calculate the potential losses and arrive at an estimate that will then be added to the sum of your past or current losses.
Can Economic Damages be Challenged in Washington State?
Economic damages can be challenged. States that follow the contributory negligence rule bar a claimant from receiving any damages if the claimant was at fault to any extent––however little that may be––for their injury. States that follow a pure or modified comparative negligence rule allow damages but reduce the damages according to the injured party's percentage of fault. In a pure comparative negligence system, all parties can collect damages minus the percentage of fault attributed to them. There are two modified comparative negligence systems:
- The 50 percent rule bars recovery if the injured party is 50% or more at fault. If the attributed fault is less than 49%, the injured party can collect damages, but it's reduced according to fault.
- The 51 percent rule bars recovery if the injured party is 51% or more at fault. If the attributed fault is less than 50, the injured party can collect damages, but it's reduced according to fault.
Insurance companies and other defendants will use these theories to challenge personal injury claims. Their aim is to deny a settlement or prevent an award. Alternatively, they use these rules to reduce the amount of economic compensation a victim can receive.
In Washington State, most personal injury cases are addressed in a pure comparative negligence system.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer to Get Compensated for Economic Damages in Washington State
To get compensated for economic damages, you are not required to obtain the legal services of a lawyer. You can approach the insurance company or any other at-fault party on your own. Chances are, however, that these are companies with a lot more resources than you have, and so they are in a better-negotiating position than you are and can use their position to intimidate you and manipulate the facts.
If the accident and injury are minor, then representing yourself may be sufficient. If you or a loved one sustained more serious injuries and/or property damage, then the stakes are higher, and retaining a personal injury lawyer evens the playing field to your benefit.
To confirm that you need or do not need a personal injury lawyer, consider the following:
- Are you comfortable negotiating with experienced, aggressive lawyers and insurance adjusters?
- Are you resourceful and able to research the law, settlement process, and lawsuit process?
- Are you certain you know who all the potential at-fault parties are?
- Are you confident you will not miss any deadlines that could effectively terminate your chances of recovering compensation?
- Have you already received or were you offered the maximum you can (either for the value of your injuries or the maximum amount available by the insurance policy)?
You also want to think about this: your injuries may not be as minor as you think they are. There may also be delayed injuries or injuries that have the potential to be chronic.
Also, you want to keep in mind that once an injured person agrees to a settlement, there's no going back. You cannot change your mind once the papers are signed. So, it never hurts to, at a minimum, contact our personal injury lawyer to confirm what your best legal options are.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Washington Today
It is never advantageous to have to heal from an injury while also having to deal with an insurance company or another liable party just so you can get the compensation you deserve. Everything is a struggle. But at Law Offices of Paul L. Schneiderman, our personal injury will take part of the burden off of you. Determining the value of economic damages and proving them is what we do.
Contact our office today at 206-464-1952 or fill out our online form. We will schedule a Free Consultation and help you understand what is at stake, what damages you are eligible for, and how to go about getting paid.