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What is a mass casualty?

A mass casualty incident (MCI) is defined by Data Tech 911 as an incident where emergency medical services respond to a single event with multiple casualties. Further, no specific number of casualties qualifies one incident as a mass casualty over another. In personal injury law, we often use the terms mass casualty and mass tort interchangeably.   

Common types of mass casualties may include:   

  • Bus Accidents 
  • Train Accidents 
  • Aviation Accidents   

Although the degree of injury does not determine if an incident qualifies as a mass casualty, there is likely going to be a larger number of significant or deadly injuries resulting from a mass casualty incident than other types of personal injury incidents.   

Like other types of personal injuries, a victim of a mass casualty incident must prove negligence to recover from their injuries from the at-fault party. To prove negligence, it must be established that: 

  1. The defendant owed a duty to the victim; 
  2. The defendant breached the duty owed to the victim; 
  3. The defendant's actions caused the victim's injuries; and 
  4. The victim suffered damages as a result of the defendant's actions. 

Although injury claims based on negligence are the most common type of mass casualty claims, other types of injury claims include claims based on intentional acts (such as assault and/or battery) and strict liability (such as some product defect claims). 

Mass Casualty v. Class Action

In a mass casualty lawsuit, a single individual plaintiff brings the lawsuit against one or more defendants and may be awarded individual damages. 

In a class-action lawsuit, a group of plaintiffs who have been certified by the court as a “class,” bring a single lawsuit against one or more defendants. The damages awarded in these types of lawsuits are normally awarded to the “class” as a whole. In a class-action lawsuit, any award or settlement must be split between all the members of the class, and the compensation received by each class member can be very small. 

The main difference between the two types of lawsuits is how the plaintiffs are treated by the court and the amount of compensation a plaintiff stands to recover from the litigation. In general, a plaintiff who files a mass casualty (or mass tort) lawsuit will recover more compensation. 

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Will I need to file a lawsuit?

Most likely a lawsuit will be necessary to resolve a mass casualty injury claim due to the additional complexities, including the increased number of injured victims, inherent in these types of incidents. However, a mass casualty injury claim may still settle prior to trial if you have effective legal representation.

Insufficient insurance coverage is one of the issues that regularly arise in mass casualty incidents. With so many injured victims, it is possible that there is not enough insurance proceeds to fully compensate all the victims. When this happens, the defendant’s insurance company must determine how to apportion the available insurance proceeds between all the injured victims, and a lawsuit may be necessary to protect your individual interests. For this reason, it is important to have an experienced mass casualty injury lawyer who has successfully resolved mass casualty injury claims and lawsuits to protect your legal rights to recover for your injuries and damages.

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What is The Statute of Limitations?

There is a time limit to bring legal action for personal injury claims in Washington State. In most cases,  the personal injury statute of limitations in Washington is three years from the date of the injury. However, the statute of limitations may differ depending on the specific facts and type of the case.

If an injured victim fails to either settle their case or file a lawsuit against the correct defendant before the statute of limitations lapses, they will be barred from receiving compensation for their injuries.  This is why it is important to consult with an experienced mass casualty injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss any important deadlines that will affect your case or prevent you from recovering. 

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What Damages Are Available?

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Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate the injured victim for actual monetary loss. Examples include:

  • Medical Expenses (including cost of medical treatment and/or equipment)
  • Prescriptions
  • Lost Wages/Lost Opportunity
  • Domestic Service Expenses
  • Funeral & Burial Expenses
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Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are subjective, non-monetary losses. Examples include:

  • Pain & Suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Loss of Society & Companionship
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Pre-Death Terror & Fright
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Other Damages

Other types of damages injured victims may be entitled to include:

  • Replacement of Damaged Luggage & Contents
  • Housing Expenses
  • Meal Expenses
  • Transportation Expenses
  • Replacement of Other Damaged Personal Property