What Are Damages in a Lawsuit?

Damages are the legal term for a monetary award that enables the wronged person in a lawsuit to recoup what was lost. In other words, it is designed to pay for the damage that the plaintiff sustained as a result of the defendant’s actions. The damages that can be awarded may vary according to the type of lawsuit.

Contract Law

In breach of contract lawsuits, one party claims that the other party broke or refused to abide by the terms of the contract. An example may be if you hired a company to build or renovate your home, but they leave it unfinished, you may be able to recover damages from the builder since he failed to abide by the terms of the contract. The types of damages allowed in a breach of contract action may include:

  • Compensatory damages – To pay for injury or loss not covered by punitive damages
  • Liquidated damages – Damages outlined in the original contract 
  • Minimal damages – A token award that occurs when the plaintiff was damaged but the loss was nominal
  • Punitive damages – An award in the case of gross negligence, malicious intent or morally reprehensible actions
  • Restitution – To repay the injured party for payments or deposits made

Personal Injury

Compensatory damages in a personal injury suit are awarded to the victim when actions of another were negligent, causing the accident or injury. The types of damages in a personal injury suit may include lost wages or loss of future earnings, medical bills (including future bills), expenses incurred by the victim for inability to take care of household tasks, or other costs incurred due to the loss.

Wrongful Death

A wrongful death suit is one brought by the surviving family members of a deceased victim of negligence, recklessness, or deliberate actions of another. You may see these types of lawsuits where a defendant was either found not guilty of a criminal charge such as murder or manslaughter, or where the prosecutors felt that they did not have a strong enough case to bring charges against the defendant. The types of damages in a wrongful death suit could be medical bills like the hospital, doctor, pharmacy and emergency transport bills, or burial expenses. The family also has a right to recover lost wages for the expected lifetime of the victim, as well as to compensate them for pain and suffering due to the death of their loved one.

If you feel that you are due damages due to an accident or breach of contract, seek legal counsel. Look for an attorney, like a personal injury lawyer in Trenton, NJ, licensed in the particular type of case you have, such as personal injury or contract law.



Thank you to the experts at Davis & Brusca for their input into personal injury law.