Damages, in law has two different meanings. It is used to refer both to the harm suffered by a plaintiff in a civil action, and to any monies paid or awarded to him to compensate for said harm.
Generally, there are three kinds of damages: special damages, general damages, and punitive damages. Special damages are the enumerable or quantifiable monetary costs or losses suffered by the plaintiff, or the compensation therefore. For example, medical costs, repair or replacement of damaged property, lost wages, lost earning potential, loss of business, loss of irreplaceable items, loss of support, etc. General damages are items of harm or loss suffered, for which only a subjective value may be attached. Examples of this might be pain, physical suffering, emotional trauma or suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, disfigurement, loss of reputation, loss or impairment of mental or physical capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.
Compensatory damages are damages awarded for civil cases, it is awarded to the successful party, in the case of the plaintiff, it is awarded as a compensation for the pain undegone and also in most cases is included the legal services payment, however if it is the defendant that wins the case, then it is awarded for legal services and all hardships undergone during the trial.
Generally, punitive damages are not awarded in order to compensate the plaintiff, but in order to reform or deter the defendant and similar persons from pursuing a course of action such as that which damaged the plaintiff. Punitive damages are awarded only in special cases where conduct was egregiously invidious, and are over and above the amount of compensatory damages. Great judicial restraint is expected to be exercised in their application. In the United States punitive damages awards are subject to the limitations imposed by the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
On the other hand, nominal damages (very small damages) are awarded to show that the loss or harm suffered was technical rather than actual. Perhaps the most famous nominal damages award in modern times has been the $1 the National Football League was ordered to pay the United States Football League in the antitrust suit between the two leagues.
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