Damages: What They Are and How They're Calculated

What you stand to gain in a Washington, D.C., personal injury case

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on February 27, 2023

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Through a Washington, D.C., personal injury lawsuit—which must be filed within three years of the date of an accident—plaintiffs can hold negligent defendants and their insurance company legally accountable. This raises an important question: How much is a Washington, D.C., personal injury claim actually worth? The answer is that it depends on the extent of your damages. Your settlement or verdict should cover the full extent of your losses—under Washington, D.C., law, injured victims are entitled to recover compensatory damages for both economic and noneconomic losses. Here are the different types of damages that may be available:

Medical Expenses and Rehabilitative Care

As a starting point, the injured party should receive financial compensation for the full extent of their medical costs. Your financial recovery for medical care should be equivalent to your medical bills. In other words, you should not be forced to cover anything out of your own pocket. All related medical expenses should be covered—from emergency medical treatment to physical therapy or rehabilitative services. Before accepting a settlement, make sure any anticipated future medical costs are accounted for.

Lost Income and Future Wages

In many cases, injured victims are forced to miss at least some time at work while they recuperate from their accident. A personal injury settlement should provide financial compensation for your lost wages. Not only should the settlement cover wages that have already been lost, but it should also account for any diminished earning capacity. 

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is the legal term used to describe the physical pain and mental anguish that a person is forced to endure because of an accident. By definition, pain and suffering is a noneconomic damage—meaning it is difficult to put a precise dollar figure on. Generally, pain and suffering damages will be calculated by considered actual medical damages and the severity of the accident. Unfortunately, defendants and insurers frequently try to undervalue pain and suffering damages. Make sure you seek legal advice from an experienced Washington, D.C., personal injury attorney or law firm that can help you recover the full pain and suffering damages that you rightfully deserve. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation.

Disability or Disfigurement

A severe car accident may leave an injured victim with a disfiguring injury or a long-term physical impairment. and emotional distress. If so, these damages should be compensated. If you were disabled or permanently disfigured as a result of an accident in Washington, D.C., make sure you consult with a top-rated personal injury lawyer.

Punitive Damages

Finally, in some limited cases, injured victims may be eligible to recover punitive damages. Although they are awarded to the injured victims, punitive damages are not related to a specific “loss” or “damage”. Instead, they are designed to punish the defendant’s misconduct.

For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of personal injury, motor vehicle accidentsmedical malpractice, and product liability.

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