What are “Damages” in Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law is grounded in two main prinicples: liability and damages.  But what are damages?  I found the following on the Cornell Law School website:

  • Damages, in a legal sense, is the sum of money the law imposes for a breach of some duty or violation of some right. Generally, there are two types of damages : compensatory and punitive. (The term "damages" typically includes both categories, but the term, "actual damages" is synonymous with compensatory damages, and excludes punitive damages.)
  • Compensatory damages, like the name suggests, are intended to compensate the injured party for his loss or injury. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a wrongdoer. There are other modifying terms placed in front of the word damages like "liquidated damages," (contractually established damages) and "nominal damages" (where the court awards a nominal amount such as one dollar). For certain types of injuries statutes provide that successful parties should receive some multiple of their "actual damages" — e.g., treble damages.

There are also "special" or "economic damages," and "general" or "non-economic damages."  Special damages are basically your medical expenses and lost wages that you incurred as a result of your accident.  General damages generally refer to pain and suffering.

Please contact me with any Massachusetts personal injury law questions you may have.