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What Are My Damages?

Posted by attorney David Blain


A Plaintiff in a civil action for personal injuries can seek monetary compensation for the injuries suffered. This compensation is known as damages. The precise amount of damages in a personal injury action will be determined on a case by case basis by a jury. If the award is either excessive or deficient, the court in its wisdom and discretion may review the award and either decrease or increase the final amount without a new trial or appeal. A personal injury award can include two types of damages: (1) Compensatory Damages and (2) Punitive Damages.


Compensatory damages are designed to place the Plaintiff into the position he/she would have been in had the injury never been sustained. Compensatory damages attempt to restore the victim physically, financially and emotionally by placing a dollar amount on the victim's injuries.

Compensatory damages can also be divided into two categories: (1) Economic damages and (2) Non-economic damages.

Economic damages, also known as special damages, are damages that compensate the victim for monetary loss. The most common form of economic compensation is for past and future medical expenses for the treatment of the injuries and for past and future lost wages for work missed because of the injuries. Other examples can include the repair or replacement of property or the cost of funeral expenses.

Non-economic damages, also known as general damages, are damages that compensate the victim for non-monetary losses. Non-monetary losses are difficult to value because there is no marketplace for these types of issues. Non-monetary damages include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium and diminished earning capacity. Damages for pain and suffering typically include compensation for actual pain as well as compensation for emotional distress. Emotional distress can include anxiety, stress, fear, anger, frustration, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.


Punitive damages are not designed to place the Plaintiff into the position he/she would have been in had the injuries never occurred. Instead, punitive damages are intended both to punish the defendant for his/her/its outrageous and egregious conduct and to deter other individuals or business entities in behaving in the same manner. Punitive damages are typically awarded when the defendant's conduct is wilful, fraudulent or oppressive.

Punitive damages are not awarded in every claim for personal injuries, and are not even considered unless an order for compensatory damages has been entered. When a punitive damages claim has been awarded, it is usually capped at 10 times the value of the compensatory damages award.

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