Compensatory damages are meant to restore a victim’s losses that were incurred as a result of a defendant’s wrongful conduct or negligence. Types of losses that fit this category include property damage, hospital bills, current and future medical expenses, lost wages, prolonged physical therapy, permanent disfigurement or scarring, loss of consortium, reduced quality of life, loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and more. The most common accidents that result in compensatory damages being awarded are generally those that involve carelessness and negligent, such as car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and product defects.
Cases in which a defendant’s conduct was especially egregious, a court may award a victim with punitive damages. These are generally reserved for those who deserve penalty or punishment for an outrageously negligent or illegal act that harmed another person. An at-fault party in this type of case would likely face criminal prosecution too. Not only will courts use punitive damages to punish a defendant, they may also award them to set an example for the rest of the community. Common examples of such cases include drunk driving accidents, wrongful deaths, and medical malpractice.
Aside from the standard compensatory and punitive damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit, there is a third category that is not as common called nominal damages. Nominal damages are small sums of money that are sometimes awarded to injured victims who have not incurred a significant economic loss or injury, but did experience an invasion of rights. Although minimal in funds in most cases, these damages are still important because they allow injured victims to pursue legal recompense for an immoral act against them, even if the act didn’t cause any financial repercussions. A court may award nominal damages to a plaintiff simply to show that the plaintiff is right and the defendant is wrong. They can be as low as 1 dollar since they are really meant to prove a point.