Recent Case Highlights the Importance of Proving Damages in a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Lawsuit

A plaintiff in a Washington, D.C personal injury case not only has to prove that the defendant acted wrongfully, and that the defendant’s wrongful conduct caused the plaintiff harm, but also that they suffered harm. Further, they must prove the extent of that harm. Damages can only be awarded if the party claiming the damages has adequately proved that the opponent’s wrongful conduct caused the harm suffered. Washington, D.C. courts have stated that damages cannot be based on “speculation or guesswork,” thus, a plaintiff must provide an adequate basis for the jury to make a reasoned judgment. In addition, damage calculations have to be sufficiently detailed to support an award of damages.

Generally, damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for the harm the plaintiff suffered. Examples of compensatory damages include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are also available in D.C. injury cases in some instances. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for bad conduct and to deter others from engaging in such conduct. When punitive damages are at issue, a court may consider the defendant’s net worth and ability to pay.

Failing to adequately prove damages can be just as devastating as a judgment in the opposing party’s favor. For example, in a recent case, an appellate court upheld an award of zero future damages, which significantly limited the plaintiff’s recovery. In that case, the plaintiff and her husband claimed that an emergency room physician and his employer failed to properly assess and treat the wife’s brain aneurysm when she went to the emergency room. On the issue of damages, the plaintiffs presented billing records that showed the wife’s medical expenses totaled over $1 million. They also presented testimony concerning her procedures and rehabilitation, future medical expenses, lost wages, and the care she required based on her condition. The defense challenged the extent of future expenses and the credibility of the witnesses.

At the close of trial, the jury awarded the wife past medical expenses of over $1 million and loss of consortium but awarded her zero damages for future medical expenses, lost wages, and for pain and suffering. The jury found the hospital was 51 percent at fault and the wife was 49 percent at fault, and the damages were reduced to 51 percent of the award. The plaintiffs argued that the jury’s damages award was inadequate and inconsistent with the evidence at trial. However, the appeals court did not overturn the jury’s decision. The court found that based on the evidence, the decision was not so clearly inadequate as to be inconsistent with the preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, the plaintiff was only able to recover around $600,000 in damages.

Have You Been Injured Because of Another’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been injured because of another party’s negligent or otherwise wrongful conduct, contact a personal injury attorney. Lebowitz and Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, represents victims of Washington, D.C. medical malpractice and other wrongful conduct throughout the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. region. Our lawyers have represented victims for two decades and know what to do to pursue the maximum compensation. Our firm will not recover any legal fees unless we obtain a settlement or a judgment in your favor. Call us at (800) 654-1949 or contact us online today to set up a free consultation.

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