Injury Law Glossary

Definition of Damages

What, exactly, is meant by damages, in a legal sense?

Damages refers to the amount of money that one person or organization has to pay another person or organization to compensate for a loss or injury. In simpler terms, it’s the amount that the person found responsible has to pay the person that was hurt.

There are two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Let’s look at the differences between them.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are also sometimes called “actual damages.” These damages are awarded to compensate the injured party for expenses incurred due to the injury. Compensatory damages aren’t just limited to the money already paid out; the court can award compensatory damages for reduced ability to work, future medical bills, or emotional distress.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are less common than compensatory damages. Punitive damages are reserved for when the person or organization causing the injury acted willfully. An example of this would be someone who assaulted another person and punched them. This sort of behavior isn’t an accident, like a car crash. Instead, the person throwing the punch acted with full knowledge that they could harm the other person. Another example would be if a store knew its floor was in disrepair but didn’t fix it, causing a customer to fall.


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