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Difference Between Personal and Bodily Injury for Washington Cases

Whenever an individual suffers injuries due to the negligence or carelessness of another, they will likely wonder whether or not they are eligible to recover damages. In some instances, the actions of the liable party may even warrant criminal charges. Regardless of the circumstances, however, two terms that all claimants are likely to hear are “personal injury” and “bodily injury.” The two may sound interchangeable, but in reality, they have different meanings and applications with regard to the court system. 

Before we discuss the differences between the two and give examples for each, it is important to note that in order to maximize your chances of success, you will need the help of an experienced attorney. Van Law Firm has been helping Washington accident victims get both the treatment and the compensation they need in order to get back on track for nearly a decade, and our skills are always improving. Call our location nearest you today to learn more. 

Criminal vs. Civil Proceedings in Washington State 

When discussing these terms, one of the biggest differences has to do with what court system a particular case is going through. In Washington (and everywhere else in the US), criminal courts are meant to handle cases where an individual has been charged with a criminal offense by either law enforcement officials or prosecutors. The main purpose of the criminal court is to evaluate the incident in question and determine if the defendant was innocent or guilty with relation to their charges. They will also formulate an appropriate punishment if an individual is found to be guilty. 

All of that being said, the term “bodily injury” is common in the criminal court system because there are numerous laws and statutes that use this term–i.e, “Defendant X is being criminally charged for causing bodily injury to Plaintiff Y.” 

Conversely, the civil court system handles cases that are centered around financial reimbursement and money matters, not charges and convictions. “Personal injury” is a field of law that refers to cases in which someone has been injured by another and wishes to recover damages– therefore they are considered civil proceedings. As such, the term “personal injury” is used almost exclusively for civil cases and courts. 

Bodily Injury as it Relates to Car Insurance Coverage

Here’s where it might get a little confusing–while the term “personal injury” is almost never used in criminal courts, “bodily injury” does come up in civil courts. Specifically, it has to do with auto insurance coverage. All states have minimum coverage requirements, and “bodily injury” refers to coverage that is meant to pay for any injuries that were caused by the policyholder. The term is used to differentiate between physical injury and property damage. For Washington, the minimums look like this: 

  • Bodily Injury Liability: $25k per person and $50k per accident 
  • Property Damage Liability: $10k 

Recovering Compensation Following an Accident 

Just to reiterate, the purposes of civil and criminal cases are entirely different. Therefore, the defendant’s compensation is different as well–for personal injury cases and other civil proceedings, this means financial compensation, whereas, for criminal cases, the compensation generally refers to the peace of mind and closure of knowing that your assailant has been charged and convicted. 

Contact Van Law Firm for Your Personal Injury Matters

While the criminal court system is obviously a cornerstone of our society, it is not our area of practice. Instead, the award-winning team of attorneys and legal staff from Van Law Firm is focused on assisting Washington accident victims with their personal injury claims. If you or someone you know has been injured due to the negligence or recklessness of others, give us a call at (360) 200-0000 to get the compensation and treatment you need.