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Damages from a Personal Injury Accident in Washington DC

As an experienced DC personal injury attorney may tell you, the value of a personal injury lawsuit following an accident caused by someone else’s negligence is heavily debated. Interestingly, the various damages the injured party might seek are reasonably straightforward. Determining a fair value, on the other hand, is much more challenging. There are various parties – including the defendant or at-fault party – who need to be persuaded that the injured plaintiff’s claim is rightful and is thus owed monetary compensation. As a DC personal injury attorney may attest, it is helpful to understand the different kinds of damages themselves, which are divided into two main categories: punitive damages and compensatory damages.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are granted in a very limited amount of cases, in which the court deems it appropriate to instruct the jury to grant punitive damages. These damages are rare because their main purpose is to serve as a punishment for an egregious form of conduct, thereby deterring others from conducting in the same manner in the future. Punitive damages are only allowed when the court allows such an issue to proceed. These damages are awarded in an extremely limited number of cases and under very rare circumstances. When a court allows the issue of punitive damages to move forward to the jury, the jury is given specific instructions in regard to the factors necessary to award punitive damages.

As the Washington DC injury lawyers of Cohen & Cohen know, punitive damages are almost never granted in personal injury cases. It is very rare for a jury to even be allowed to consider awarding these damages. On the rare occasion that a case does qualify for punitive damages, the jury awards punitive damages in correspondence with the instructions for the jury.

Compensatory Damages

Economic and non-economic damages are the two forms of compensatory damages. Economic damages are expenses that resulted directly from the accident. Non-economic damages depend upon the losses and abuses sustained by the victim.


Because economic damages are explicit, they are easier to determine than non-economic damages. Economic damages include:

Total sum of medical bills (including past, present and future): Medical bills from the past are simple to count, as a DC personal injury attorney understands. However, victims who have not fully recovered may need additional  medical treatments in the future, so those costs need to be predicted.

Loss of income: Determining the amount of income that was lost before the settlement or trial is quite straightforward, which may include lost benefits (medical, dental etc.). However, disability to the patient that last beyond the trial, as well as additional loss of wages, needs to be predicted.


Pain and suffering: While this concept may be relatively easy to grasp, it is often the cause of serious conflict between defendants and plaintiffs. Usually, the defense tries to downplay the harms and losses suffered by the victim, as this lowers the compensation that will be rewarded. For this reason, the plaintiff’s DC personal injury attorney should compile a solid case with the necessary documentation to convey the true level of losses suffered by the victim, as well as the span of time the victim suffered. There are various forms of pain and suffering that may be factored into this loss, including mental suffering, damage to the victim’s professional and/or personal reputation, emotional suffering, and the potential worsening of those losses. As a DC personal injury attorney knows well, “pain” is not easily quantifiable, so damages for pain and suffering are often difficult to determine and even more difficult to negotiate.

Loss of consortium: This refers to the loss of love or care that a family member or loved one provides. While this may seem vague, there are actuarial tables that can calculate these losses. It may be helpful to consult with an experienced DC personal injury attorney of Cohen & Cohen as to whether or not a victim will be able to return to their chosen profession, or any other job, after a serious injury.

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