Punitive Damages in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Cases

When someone is injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, they may decide to pursue a claim for compensation against the parties they believe to be responsible for their injuries. Depending on the nature of the accident and the extent of the victim’s injuries, there are several categories of damages that an injury victim can obtain.

The most common type of damages in a Washington, D.C. personal injury case are called compensatory damages. Compensatory damages awards are designed to put the plaintiff back into the position they were in before the accident which resulted in their injuries. There are two types of compensatory damages, economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages refer to quantifiable expenses that were incurred (or will be incurred) as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Common types of compensatory economic damages are medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages are damages that are not easily assigned a monetary value, such as pain and suffering.

So far, the damages we’ve discussed have been focused on the accident victim. Punitive damages, however, are focused on the defendant’s conduct. Punitive damages are designed not to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries, but instead to punish the defendant for their actions and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages are rare; however, it is not unheard of for a judge or jury to award punitive damages. A recent case illustrates a situation where punitive damages may be appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a young child who was injured on a ride called the “Psycho Swing.” Evidently, the owner of the ride rented it out without installing a safety harness or including the safety instruction manual. The plaintiff presented testimony from the designer of the ride, indicating that the ride should never be operated without the safety harness. The trial court determined that the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to justify placing the issue of punitive damages to the jury. The defendant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to justify punitive damages.

The court agreed with the plaintiff, allowing the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages to proceed to trial. The court explained that it would not disturb the lower court’s decision to allow the plaintiff’s claim unless the judge failed to follow the necessary procedures. Here, the lower court held all necessary hearings on the punitive damages issue. Thus, the appellate court deferred to the lower court’s decision to allow the plaintiff to pursue a claim for punitive damages.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent Washington, D.C. injury victims in all types of cases, including Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident victims. We also represent clients in Maryland and Virginia personal injury cases. To learn more about how our dedicated team of personal injury lawyers can help you or your loved one pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 today.

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