As the name implies, compensatory damages are intended to compensate: to offset an error or undesirable effect. In the case of personal injury law, that undesirable effect is the disruption, harm, and pain and suffering inflicted by the defendant on the plaintiff. In short, compensatory damages are meant to make up for an injury sustained by an individual. Compensatory damages are of two types: actual and general. Actual damages are dollar-for-dollar reimbursements for funds paid out-of-pocket for medical treatments, lost wages, substitute transportation, property replacement or repair, and rehabilitation. General damages are less tangible, but attempt to quantify the negative experiences of such things as mental anguish, disfigurement, future medical expenses, future lost wages, long-term pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of opportunity which resulted from the injury.
Punitive damages are a punishment for the defendant for those acts of gross negligence or intentional misconduct that cause personal injury to the plaintiff. Their calculation is divorced from the financial or emotional cost already paid by the plaintiff. Rather they are meant to prevent the defendant or others in similar situations from allowing or causing the same sort of accident to happen in the future. Punitive damages may be especially appropriate in cases of intentional torts. For example, if a person intentionally runs an automobile into a pedestrian, punitive damages may be appropriate.
Nominal damages are used to acknowledge a wrong suffered by the plaintiff in cases where the evidence of actual damages is slight. The court may choose to award the plaintiff a small sum of money, separate from compensation for financial or emotional suffering and from punishing the defendant. Nominal damages may only be sought in intentional tort cases in which physical injury to the plaintiff is not required for a defendant to be found guilty. A plaintiff who has been shoved without injury may still receive money as acknowledgement that a wrong has been committed.
Court Costs and Attorney’s Fees
In the event that a case is decided in favor of the plaintiff, he/she may be able to seek reimbursement for the fees paid in bringing the case. These court costs would include filing and process server fees, obtaining deposition and court transcripts, and payment to translators. Though it is rarer, there are some instances in which a plaintiff may also be able to recover attorney and expert witness fees, but this is not as common.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Sheridan & Rund at 310-640-1200, toll free at 888-640-6789, or contact us online. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.