Damages in Civil Litigation

Damages in Civil Litigation

If a person suffers an injury or loss due to the wrongful actions of another person, the injured person may file a civil lawsuit against the offending party. If the injured person proves his or her case, the court will award damages. Damages are a monetary award to the injured person. This article discusses the various types of damages available in civil lawsuits.

Compensatory Damages


Compensatory damages (sometimes called general damages) are monetary damages awarded to a person to return that person to the position the person occupied before the wrong, injury, or loss. Compensatory damages include any out-of-pocket expenses. For example, a person who suffers an injury can recover medical expense, hospital costs, and lost income. The person would also be compensated for physical pain and suffering.


A person also is compensated for any loss to personal property. Generally, property damages are calculated as the difference between the values of the property before and after it was damaged. If the property is destroyed, damages would be awarded based on the value of the property before it was destroyed, minus any salvage value.

Punitive or Exemplary Damages


The courts can award punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, to punish a person causing a wrong, injury, or loss. Punitive damages are awarded if the court finds that the person acted recklessly or maliciously in causing the wrong, injury, or loss. In addition to punishing outrageous behavior, punitive damages are aimed at deterring similar conduct in the future.

Nominal Damages


An award of nominal damages is an award of a trivial sum in cases where there is proof that an injury or wrong occurred but no measurable loss or damage was proved.

Other Money Remedies


Other types of damages may also be available in particular types of cases. For example, liquidated damages may be available in a lawsuit based on a breach of contract. Liquidated damages are the amount of damages the parties have promised to pay if there is a breach of the agreement. The contract may also provide for the retention of a prepaid deposit as liquidated damages. Reliance damages are another remedy available in breach of contract actions. Reliance damages reimburse the injured person for losses incurred due to reliance on the contract and expectations that the contract will be completed. In tort lawsuits, an injured person’s spouse may recover damages for loss of consortium or companionship resulting from the injury.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.