One of the most frequent questions I receive as a personal injury attorney is what can a plaintiff recover for his or her injuries that were caused by another individual’s negligence?
In a standard personal injury case–say an automobile accident–the plaintiff can recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the costs and expenses associated with personal injury. For example, past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses would all be considered economic damages. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are the intangible losses a person endures because of his or her injury. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss enjoyment of life, inconvenience, and loss of consortium (relationship with loved ones).
One of the biggest surprises people have when I explain the types of damages they can recover in a personal injury action is the fact that they cannot collect attorney fees from the other side. Not to bore you with the historical details, but the United State’s legal system has always followed the “American Rule,” that is, each party is responsible for their own attorney fees. Unless the Washington Legislature has specifically allowed a prevailing party to collect his or her attorney fees from the other side (E.g. Insurance Fair Conduct Act), each side must bear their own attorney fees.