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What Are Compensatory Damages?


As the name suggests, compensatory damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries and/or damage (s)he suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligent acts. Plaintiffs must suffer actual, measurable harm in order to recover damages. “Nominal” damages–meaning damages too small for economic measurement, or not severe enough to assign a monetary value–are not sufficient to support a successful negligence claim.

Where the plaintiff suffers actual damage, the plaintiff generally may recover the financial value of all harm or injury proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence. This may include the cost of repairing or replacing property, medical bills, lost wages, and any other documentable costs of injury.



Where the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff to suffer bodily harm or personal injury, the plaintiff may be able to recover an additional sum for emotional distress. (Sometimes, people refer to this as damages for “pain and suffering” – but the more appropriate legal term is emotional distress.)

Generally speaking, where the plaintiff suffered only emotional distress (and not a physical injury) damages for emotional distress are only available in certain types of cases. Whether or not damages may be available for emotional distress–with or without personal injury involvement–requires legal analysis of the facts and circumstances of a plaintiff’s unique, individual situation.

If you have suffered injury due to someone else’s actions, negligent or otherwise, consult an experienced attorney promptly for an individual analysis of your legal rights and potential claims. Delay may cost you the right to recover, so contact an attorney promptly.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses) are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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