KINDS OF DAMAGES IN TORT

    Edited by: Vaani Garg

    Tort: Tort is the breach of legal duty which the wrong doer commits towards the victim. It results in the violation of legal rights vested in other persons. The presence of legal rights and the failure to obey the legal duty to protect that right constitutes a tort.

    Kinds of Damages:

    Damages are monetary awards. In a legal sense, “damages” refers to monetary compensation that is claimed by a person or awarded by a court in a civil action to a person who has been injured or has suffered loss because of wrongful conduct of any other party.

    The purpose of damages in a tort action is to restore an injured party to the position he was in before being harmed, and, in a contract action, to place the innocent party in the position he would have been in had the contract been performed. Consequently, damages are generally remedial rather than preventive or punitive.

    Compensatory Damages (Actual Damages):

    These are the damages awarded for actual loss, to place the plaintiff in position that he would have been in he hadn’t suffered the wrong complained of. The aim is to “make the injured party whole again.”

    General Damages (Non-Pecuniary Damages):

    These are damages for non-monetary losses suffered by a plaintiff. General damages have long been characterized as those that the law presumes to flow from every breach of contract or any invasion of the plaintiff’s rights.

    In a personal injury action, for instance, examples of such losses suffered include pain, suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities.

    Pecuniary Damages (Special Damages):

    These are the damages that can be exactly measured in money, damages intended to compensate a plaintiff for a quantifiable monetary loss. Special damages mean the particular damage (beyond the general damage) that result from the particular circumstances of the case. Examples of such losses includes medical bills, lost wages, and repair costs.

    Liquidated Damages:

    Damages agreed upon by the parties entering into a contract, to be paid by a party who breaches the contract to a non-breaching party. These are available when damages may be hard to foresee and must be a fair estimate of what the damages might be if there is a breach.

    Liquidated damages are used when it would be hard to prove the actual harm or loss caused by a breach. The amount of liquidated damages must be a reasonable estimate of actual damages that a breach would cause. A contract term setting unreasonably large or disproportionate liquidated damages may be void because it constitutes a penalty or punishment for default.

    Punitive Damages: (Exemplary Damages):

    These are damages intended to punish the breaching actors and to deter them for committing future breaches. Punitive damages are awarded not so much to compensate a plaintiff for injury or loss suffered as to penalize a defendant for particularly wrongful conduct.

    Aggravated Damages:

    These are damages awarded to compensate a plaintiff for intangible injuries or damages suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions. It is not the damages that are aggravated but the injury. The damage award is for aggravation of the injury by the defendant’s misbehavior. Because of the defendant’s conduct, the measure of damages is increased. The plaintiff’s losses are non-pecuniary.

    In tort law, aggravated damages resemble damages for “pain and suffering”, one of conventional subheads for non-pecuniary loss. The distinction between them lies mainly in casual sequence. Aggravated damages compensate for distress caused by the character of the defendant’s wrongdoing, whether pre- or post-injury.

    Damages for pain and suffering compensate for the distress caused by the personal injury that results from the wrongdoing.

    Nominal Damages:

    These are token damages awarded to redress a violation of legal right that the law deems necessary to protect, even if there has been no actual harm or monetary loss. By granting nominal damages, the court affirms that a legal right has been violated. While the plaintiff has no right to real damages, the court gives her the right to a judgement because her legal right has been infringed. Nominal damages are generally recoverable by a plaintiff  who successfully establishes that he has suffered an injury caused by a defendant’s wrongful conduct, but cannot prove a loss that can be compensated.

    For example, an injured plaintiff who proves that a defendant’s actions caused the injury but fails to submit medical records to show the extent of the injury may be awarded only nominal damages. The amount awarded is generally small, symbolic sum, such as one dollar, Nominal damages are available whether the action is in contract or in tort

    Restitutionary Damages:

    These are not really legal damages, but rather an equitable remedy to prevent a party from being unjustly enriched. For example, in a contract case, if one party has delivered goods but the other party failed to pay, they must be entitled to restitutionary damages to prevent the unjust enrichment.