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What does the law say about noneconomic damages?

On Behalf of | Dec 18, 2020 | Firm News

After an injury incident, the courts will likely hold the responsible person liable for the damages the negligent or careless actions caused you. While you may be able to figure a rough estimate of your economic damages using documentation and a calculator, noneconomic damages are not so straightforward. 

Washington state law RCW 4.56.250 provides the definition of noneconomic damages and the limitations that legislation places on the total. 

Definition of noneconomic damages

Some of your losses are not monetary. For example, the loss of the use of a body part is not financial, and neither is the loss of your ability to enjoy your favorite hobby. However, either of these losses could affect your quality of life profoundly. The amount of physical, mental and emotional pain you suffer is also not a matter for a calculator. Other damages courts consider as noneconomic include: 

  • Disability 
  • Disfigurement 
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Loss of society and companionship 
  • Destruction of the parent-child relationship 
  • Inconvenience 

A judge or jury must take these subjective factors together and then put a dollar amount to your losses. 

Limitations on noneconomic damages

Even though there is a calculable limit on the award you may receive, members of the jury should not receive this information. They must reach the amount independently. Then, if it exceeds the limit, the court will reduce the award accordingly. 

The limit varies based on the average annual wage in the state of Washington for the current year and your life expectancy based on the insurance commissioner’s life expectancy tables. However, your assumed life expectancy cannot be less than 15 years for the purposes of the calculation. The court then multiplies these numbers by a percentage. Although this limit may seem concrete, the variables for noneconomic damages are still broad and subjective.