Despite a party’s best intentions, sometimes, contract obligations go unfulfilled. Whether the failure to fulfill a contract’s terms is minor or material, a breach of contract can have serious financial consequences for both parties. When someone fails to deliver on their end of a bargain, you may want to consider a lawsuit for breach of contract.
Unless the contract itself spells out a specific way to calculate damages, you may need to look to legal precedent to understand how much you can recover for a broken contract. If you sue for breach of contract, Washington law does not provide a formula for contract damages. However, legal precedent provides several important considerations that factor into calculating how much you can sue for breach of contract.
In this blog post, the Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. team of experienced contract law attorneys will walk you through some of the key things to look out for when pursuing a breach of contract claim and calculating your potential damages.
Can I Sue for Breach of Contract?
The most important element in determining how much you can sue for breach of contract is first determining if you have a viable claim. Simply put, if you do not have a case against the breaching party, then you will not have the right to collect any damages.
A valid breach of contract claim must include:
- A legally binding contract between the parties;
- A fulfilled contractual obligation by the claimant;
- A failure to fulfill contractual obligations by the defendant; and
- Demonstrable losses suffered by the claimant resulted from the defendant’s breach.
If you are the claimant or plaintiff, you must be able to prove that the defendant’s breach of contract caused you harm.
Our Tacoma-area breach of contract attorneys at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. will discuss each element of a breach of contract claim with you to help determine whether you have a claim. It is important to contact a breach of contract lawyer as soon as possible after you know your contract has been violated. In Washington State, you have six years to file a lawsuit for breach of a written contract, and three years to file a lawsuit for an oral contract.
What Types of Damages Could Be Available?
When you sue for breach of contract, you may ask for any or all of the following damages: punitive, compensatory, consequential, incidental, and liquidated damages. We will discuss each type of damage below.
Punitive damages may only be available only in cases of breach of contract where a tort is also involved, like a fraud. These damages are meant to punish the breaching party for their behavior and deter such behavior in the future. You will rarely see or be awarded punitive damages in a breach of contract case unless something else has gone wrong.
These damages compensate the non-breaching party. Compensatory damages make you whole from any losses that directly stem from the breach. They are designed to make the non-breaching party whole again.
You should know that in breach of contract cases, Washington courts rarely award compensatory damages for things like “mental anguish” or “pain and suffering” unless the breach of contract was likely to lead to emotional distress. An example of this is breach of a contract for a dignified burial of a child.
Consequential damages – also known as “special damages – occur as an indirect but reasonably foreseeable result of the breach. One example of consequential damages is loss of profits following a breach of a contract for an essential widget in a business’s production process.
Incidental damages are expenditures that the non-breaching party incurs when trying to minimize the losses from the breach. For example, if the non-breaching party needs to buy substitute goods or services and has to pay a premium for the last-minute purchase, those premium payments are considered incidental losses.
Some contracts include a liquidated damages provision, which specifies an agreed-upon amount in the event of a breach. This provision kicks in when the computation of damages is too difficult to calculate.
Other types of damages may be available depending on the circumstances and the nature of the contract. A contract lawyer will be able to help you identify the types of damages appropriate for your situation.
How Will My Damages Be Calculated?
If someone has breached a contract they made with you, you may have a right to sue for breach of contract. As you calculate your damages with your attorney, some key considerations include:
- What direct harm did you or your business suffer due to the breach of contract?
- Were those damages reasonably foreseeable and a result of the breach of the agreement?
- Can your damages be proved through clear, ascertainable measures that you could demonstrate to a judge or jury? and
- Are you satisfied with only being restored to the position you were in had the other party not breached the contract? In other words, are you aware this is not a get-rich-quick lawsuit?
Our Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. team, is ready to help you handle any damage calculations you need to do before filing your breach of contract lawsuit. We are experienced breach of contract lawyers ready to help you tackle the complexity of understanding how to get the recovery you deserve.
Will There Be Any Limitations on My Damages?
Most states, including Washington, have no caps on compensatory damages. However, you will be required to minimize the amount of damages you suffer as the non-breaching party to the extent reasonable. A court will not award you damages you could have avoided. As a simple example, if someone breached a contract and failed to repair your tire, a court likely would not award you compensation for continuing to drive on the faulty tire and therefore destroying your axle and rim. You would only receive compensation for the tire.
Contact Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.
Obtaining damages after a breach of contract can be essential to your future financial stability. It is important to have a competent attorney handling your breach of contract case. Contact the highly-skilled legal team of Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. We have been advocating for residents of Western Washington since 1977. We know how to represent you zealously and navigate the complexities of our local business community. Call us for a consultation today.