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Pain and Suffering Damages in the District of Columbia

Since many people think of smarmy politicians when they hear about Washington D.C., the term "pain and suffering" might seem like a fitting association. But like all of the states, D.C. treats "pain and suffering" as a legal term for both the physical and emotional distress caused by an injury. If you've been injured while in town visiting the Lincoln Memorial or your newly-elected Congresswoman, read on to learn how courts treat pain and suffering damages in the District of Columbia.

Below is a table outlining the laws related to pain and suffering damages in the District of Columbia, followed by explanations of important aspects of the laws.

Statute of Limitations

3 years for personal injury (Sec. 12-301(8)); 1 year for assault and battery (Sec. 12-301(4))

Limits on Damages No cap on pain & suffering damages
Other Limits Pure contributory negligence rule may bar recovery of any damages (See Elam v. Ethical Prescription Pharmacy)

Economic vs. Non-economic Damages

Usually, there are two types of damages to consider after you've been injured: economic (or "special") and non-economic (or "general"). Economic damages are the objective losses you've incurred as a result of your injury or damage to property, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages refer to the more abstract, subjective costs of an accident, including past and future pain and suffering (such as depression, fear, and insomnia).

How are Pain and Suffering Damages Measured in the District of Columbia?

Damages for pain and suffering are difficult to measure, in part because the experience of pain and suffering is highly subjective. Courts often instruct juries to use their best judgment in deciding how much to award a plaintiff. In general, courts use a number of factors to determine these types of damages.

Factors courts consider in determining pain and suffering damages include:

  • Severity of the injury
  • Potential for ongoing consequences
  • Age of the injured person
  • Whether the injured had preexisting conditions
  • Location and nature of scarring or disfigurement
  • The amount of economic loss suffered

Some attorneys also use a "multiplier method" to assign a dollar value to pain and suffering. In this approach, the attorney multiplies the economic damages by a certain number, usually between one and five. For example, if the injured suffered $20,000 in lost wages, an attorney might argue that the plaintiff should be awarded three times that amount ($60,000) for pain and suffering.

Limits on Damages

In addition to the difficulty of measuring pain and suffering, some jurisdictions impose their own limits on these types of awards. Unlike those states, D.C. does not have a cap on damages for pain and suffering. However, it is worth noting that for most claims, D.C follows the harsh rule known as "pure contributory negligence" which bars any recovery whatsoever if the plaintiff's own negligence helped cause the accident.

Get a Claim Review from an Attorney in the District of Columbia

It's inherently difficult to measure and assign a dollar value to pain and suffering. For this reason, these types of awards vary widely from case to case and can depend on factors like the experience and charisma of your attorney. Learn more and evaluate the strength of your claim by receiving a claim evaluation from an experienced attorney who is familiar with pain and suffering damages in the District of Columbia.

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