Know Your Claim: Your Guide to the Various Types of Legal Damages


According to the United States Law, damage refers to the money or fine that the law imposes for violation of some right or a breach of some duty. The damage awarded will depend on several factors and the applicable area of law.

Courts award these Legal damages to the wronged person who is legally referred to as the plaintiff. Whether you are a defendant or plaintiff, it is important to know the types of legal damages to be better informed of the relief or charges you might get.

Compensation under tort law is the damages awarded to help the injured person go back to the financial position they were in before the accident. To obtain the damages, the plaintiff or the injured person will have to prove that the defendant’s behavior or negligence caused the injuries they sustained.

Here are some of the various types of compensation under the law:

Compensatory Damages

When you file a lawsuit after sustaining an injury because of another person’s negligence or an unlawful act, the court can award you compensatory damages. These damages are mostly awarded in civil court cases, and to receive compensatory damages, the plaintiff must first prove that the injury was due to negligence.

The plaintiff should also quantify the amount of money they have lost as a result of the accident or any other damages that they have suffered. If the plaintiff and defendant cannot come to an agreement and settle, they will have to present the case before a judge and a jury for a ruling.

Compensatory damages can compensate for:

  • Hospital bills
  • Lost earnings
  • Medical bills
  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Permanent injuries
  • Funeral costs
  • Loss or damages to property

These injuries and damages can be caused by several types of accidents, such as:

  • Car accidents
  • Slips and falls
  • Workplace accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Wrongful death
  • Product liability

Your attorney should be able to calculate your loss, expenses, and all other damages that you have suffered to know how much to claim.

Types of Compensatory Damages

When the victim sues for compensatory damages, the court can consider the damages as either general or special. These damages are awarded in a monetary form to cover the loss that the victim has suffered.

General Damages

These damages compensate the plaintiff for the non-monetary parts of their loss, like pain and suffering. This is because it is impossible to quantify this damage in monetary value. some courts use the multiplier method to know how much to award for general damages.

Other courts use the per diem method to calculate the damages, and in other cases, a court can decide to use both methods.

Special Damages

These damages compensate the victim for the actual financial losses that they have suffered. The loss includes all out of pocket expenses that a victim incurs due to the accident. For example, if you had to pay your hospital bill, massage therapy, or even hire a car out of your pocket, you are entitled to recover such expenses.

Nominal Damages

This is one of the non-compensatory damages that the court can award to a plaintiff. Nominal damages are awarded in cases where the defendant did not do much damage to the plaintiff, the plaintiff was not able to mitigate, or the plaintiff cannot prove a significant loss.

For example, if the case is about defamation, and the plaintiff cannot prove how what the defendant said caused her some loss, the court will only award nominal damages. These damages come in wherever there is not sufficient proof of loss, even in personal injury cases.

The court recognizes that, while there is a lack of evidence to support financial loss or actual injury, the plaintiff still suffered some damages. This is why the plaintiff is awarded some damages.

Punitive Damages

These damages are mainly meant to punish the defendant for their behavior. They are also intended to discourage other people from engaging in the same act or behavior. The court will reward the plaintiff compensatory damages first before they consider punitive damages.

The court can choose to award punitive damages when someone commits a bad behavior that it wants to punish and discourage. For example, if an insurance company is trying to avoid compensating a family that has lost their home to a fire, and claims that the family committed arson, the court can award the family punitive damages.

Several courts award punitive damages in circumstances where the defendant’s behavior was extreme or shocking. However, if the court has awarded compensatory damages, and the damage will discourage the defendant from acting in the same manner again, it will not award punitive damages.

It is important to note that not all personal injury lawsuits result in a punitive damages award. The damages are not based on the injuries sustained, but the defendant’s negligent act or bad behavior.

Aggravated Damages

If the plaintiff’s feelings or emotions are deeply hurt because of how the defendant conducted themselves, the court can choose to award aggravated damages to the plaintiff.  This is to compensate them for mental distress, humiliation, grief, or any other injury to their feelings.

Unlike punitive damages that are awarded to punish or discourage the wrong act or behavior, aggravated damages compensate a plaintiff for their distress.  There are cases where the defendant’s actions can justify aggravated damages and fail to justify punitive damages.

These damages under tort law are additional compensation and can only be awarded if there is actual evidence of mental distress and aggravation. The damages awarded are also modest and are linked to the evidence of personal injury.

Why Courts Fail to Award Damages

In some cases, the courts can deny damages even if the plaintiff has an injury. Some of the factors that can affect a successful trial include:


If you have suffered injuries, you will still have to prove that the defendant caused the injuries. The court can apply the “but-for” test, which is mainly a test to show that the defendant’s actions caused the injuries.

The plaintiff must also have a burden of proof that the defendant is responsible for the loss. For example, if you hire a contractor to renovate your house and in the process, the roof caves in, if you choose to sue the contractor for the damages, you will have to prove that the contractor’s actions caused the roof to cave in.

The contractor can prove that the roof was not strong enough. The court will look at the evidence you both present and can agree that the contractor did not cause your roof to cave in and deny you any damages.


There are times when the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury is too far-fetched. In such cases, the court can fail to order the defendant to pay any damages because their actions did not likely cause the injuries.

Remoteness of damage is simply the requirement that the damage should be of a foreseeable type. It is also applied to nuisance claims and occupier’s liability acts.


If the court determines that the plaintiff deserves some compensation and the defendant owes them, they will still require the plaintiff to mitigate the damages. This means you will need to keep your losses as minimal as possible.

The plaintiff is legally obligated to conduct themselves in a way that will minimize the effects of their losses, injury, or breach of contract. For example, in case of a personal injury lawsuit, the victim is required by the law to seek medical attention and follow their doctor’s advice fully to minimize the effects of their injuries.

Should the plaintiff fail to mitigate damages, the court can choose not to award excessive damages. The court always evaluates the plaintiff’s actions following their injuries or loss to determine if they took the right steps to mitigate damages.

Mitigation does not necessarily require the victim to make huge sacrifices or take any extreme steps to minimize the loss.

Why You Should Hire an Attorney

When suing for damages, it may be best if you hire an attorney. Personal injury claims are very complicated. To ensure that you get rightfully compensated, you should hire a lawyer familiar with personal injury law to help you navigate the claim.

The court system can be quite confusing. There are also strict guidelines that include a statute of limitations that you should adhere to when suing for damages. An attorney will take time to build up the best case possible and get awarded for the damages you deserve.

Know These Types of Legal Damages to Help Your Claim

If you have suffered any injury, loss, or damages, you have a right to claim for compensation. These are the types of legal damages you claim, and depending on your case, you can recover maximum compensation for your loss. Always talk to an excellent personal injury attorney so that they can advise you, help you handle negotiations, and also represent you in court

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