There is an important distinction between criminal and civil cases, and it has to do with how the defendant is held liable. In criminal law, the penalty for committing a crime is a punishment that involves a loss of freedom (jail, probation, etc.). In contrast, the penalty for being liable in a civil suit is to pay money in the form of damages.
The civil equivalent of a crime is referred to as a tort. A tort is a civil wrong that involves a defendant committing an act (or failing to commit an act) that results in harm or injury to another person. The extent of that harm will determine the amount of damages the defendant has to pay.
The goal of damages is to make the plaintiff whole again.
In this article, we’ll discuss the types of damages for which a plaintiff can sue.
How Damages Are Awarded
Damages can be awarded for any tort claim, including:
- False imprisonment
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED)
- Strict liability
Though most of the items on this list can also be crimes, in civil law, they are treated as tort claims, and the damages that a defendant pays are meant to accomplish three goals:
- Compensate an injured party
- Shift economic loss to the party responsible
- Deter wrongful conduct for society as a whole
Types of Damages
Depending on the type and extent of harm, one or more types of damages can be awarded to the plaintiff.
These damages are relatively straightforward to measure by looking at financial records and other available, objective data. The types of economic loss that a plaintiff may be compensated for includes:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Household expenses
- Future lost earnings
- Other expenses incurred because of the incident
The extent of the harm suffered might not be easily determined from a bill, receipt, or pay stub, but that doesn’t mean that a victim isn’t entitled to compensation. Non-economic damages are awarded to compensate plaintiffs for less concrete situations.
- Loss of companionship
- Disability and disfigurement
- Loss of a vital sense like vision or hearing
- Cognitive distress such as stress, anxiety, depression, or PTSD
- A decrease in the quality of life
Both economic and non-economic damages are also referred to as compensatory damages because they are designed to compensate the plaintiff.
When the courts want to make a point to “punish” a defendant for particularly malicious behavior or a pattern of outrageous acts, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff. These are typically a multiplier of the settlement.
So, for example, if a defendant’s reprehensible actions were deemed extreme enough for punitive damages in a case where the plaintiff was awarded $100,000, the court might assign a multiplier of 2, which would mean $200,000 in addition to the original $100,000 judgment.
Outside of the personal injury arena, there are damages a plaintiff may be able to sue for in the event that a contract is under dispute. The breaching party (the party that doesn’t fulfill the promise of a contract) may be liable for the damages described above, as well as:
- Restitution: In contract law, this term means paying the party back
- Liquidated Damages: The breaching party has to pay the amount specified in the original contract for committing a breach
Schedule a Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney
Knowing what damages you may be entitled to is a discussion worth having with an attorney. In most personal injury cases, the other party’s insurance company will try to offer you less than your case is worth or deny a claim altogether.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can represent you and deal with all future conversations with the insurance company, working aggressively on your behalf.
At Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers, we provide a free consultation to discuss your case. Further, we don’t get paid until you do. Contact us to get started at 800-PERKINS.