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Punishment by Payment: An Overview of Washington and Oregon Punitive Damages

Posted by Schauermann Thayer | May 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

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If you have been injured by someone's negligent behavior, you don't need to be told how stressful the aftermath of an injury can be. Pain can be unbearable, careers can be compromised due to time missed from work, and medical expenses and bills can become overwhelming due to a lack of income to make payments. The goal of any personal injury lawsuit is to make the injured person as "whole" as possible by compensating them for the damages they suffered as the result of an injury.

Generally, compensation from an accident comes in the form of what are called "compensatory damages," which compensates an injured person for their injuries, whether such compensation is for medical bills, pain and suffering, or lost wages. Compensation generally ends after an award of compensatory damages. However, in some cases, and only under Oregon law (as contrasted with Washington) additional damages called "punitive damages" can be awarded to the injured person.

What are Punitive Damages?

In most cases, an injury-causing incident or accident will be due to the simple negligence of the at-fault party. A driver may have glanced down from the road for a second to change the radio station, or a grocery store employee might have failed to notice a spill before someone slipped on it.

However, some accidents are caused by actions of an at-fault party which are so egregious that the court believes that compensatory damages alone aren't sufficient. In these instances, punitive damages come into play. Punitive damages are not just meant to compensate the victim of an accident for injuries which he or she suffered. Instead, the purpose of punitive damages is to punish an individual or entity for actions which were so reckless or malicious that the court wants to set an example for the future. Punitive damages are meant to deter similar behavior from occurring in the future, and awards for punitive damages can be substantial.

Whether a person is eligible to receive punitive damages depends largely on the state in which the individual is located at the time they are injured. In Washington, because punitive damages do not exist under Washington law, it is exceedingly rare for a person to be awarded punitive damages. In Oregon, however, awards for punitive damages-- while still rare--are more frequently made.

If you have been injured and you need a capable attorney to handle your case and achieve an appropriate award of damages--the attorneys at Schauermann Thayer have established a reputation for vigorously advocating for clients. Don't try to take on a personal injury lawsuit alone--let our team of personal injury attorneys advocate for you and let you focus on what truly matters--healing as much as possible in the wake of your accident. To speak with an attorney about your case, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (360) 695-4244 today.

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