Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are awarded in civil cases by either a judge or a jury.  The purpose of compensatory awards is to replace what a person has lost.  Generally, the value is based on the fair market value.  Thus, its worth is assessed at the time when it was destroyed or damaged.  A person may also be awarded compensatory damages for losses associated with the inability to use an item.

Compensatory damages should only compensate a person for what s/he has lost.  There are damages that are meant to punish individuals who cause harm to others or their property, but those fall into a different category.  Compensatory damages are used to restore the person who was wronged to the position where s/he was before the damaging incident occurred.

A person’s losses do not always pertain to physical property.  If one person causes another the loss of peace of mind or causes another to be in pain, the one who is wronged is still recognized as suffering losses.  Thus, compensatory damages cover emotional distress or pain and suffering.  A person must prove that harm was done by the person that s/he accuses, in order to receive compensatory damages.  Generally, harm or destruction of physical property is much easier to prove and to award emotional distress.

A defendant is liable to a plaintiff for all the natural and direct consequences of the defendant’s wrongful act, with respect to compensatory damages.  However, the remote consequences of a defendant’s act or omission cannot form the basis for an award of compensatory damages.

Consequential damages are a type of compensatory damages.  It is awarded when the loss suffered by a plaintiff is not caused directly or immediately by the wrongful conduct of a defendant.  However, the loss should result from the defendant’s action for awarding consequential damages.  The consequential damages are based on the resulting harm to the plaintiff’s career.  They are not based on the injury itself, which was the direct result of the defendant’s conduct.

In cases involving claims such as pain and suffering or emotional distress, although it can be difficult to fix the amount with certainty, the measure of compensatory damages must be real and tangible.  In assessing the amount of compensatory damages to be awarded, a trier of fact such as the jury or the judge must exercise good judgment and common sense.  The judgment should be based on general experience and knowledge of economics and social affairs.  So long as the amount is supported by the evidence in the case, the jury or judge has wide discretion to award damages in whatever amount deemed appropriate.

Moreover, a plaintiff can recover damages for a number of different injuries suffered as a result of another person’s wrongful conduct.  The plaintiff can recover for a physical impairment resulting directly from a harm caused by the defendant.  In determining damages, the jury considers the present as well as long-range effects of the disease or injury on the physical well-being of the plaintiff.  The plaintiff must demonstrate the disability with reasonable certainty.  Furthermore, compensatory damages can be awarded for mental impairment, such as a loss of memory or a reduction in intellectual capacity suffered as a result of a defendant’s wrongful conduct.  A plaintiff may recover compensatory damages for both present and future physical pain and suffering.  The jury has broad discretion to award damages for pain and suffering.  However, when it appears that the jury abused its discretion in reaching a decision, the jury judgment will be overturned.


Inside Compensatory Damages