When The Law Is Tough, You Want Us At Your Table

What is the difference between nominal and compensatory damages?

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2023 | Serious Personal Injury

Civil lawsuits, including those involving a personal injury, typically revolve around being “made whole;” that is, receiving money to cover the damage done to a plaintiff. But there are rare cases where a court does not determine there are economic damages, yet still rules in the plaintiff’s favor. In these cases, nominal damages may come into play. Here is some information on the difference between nominal and compensatory damages. 

Compensatory damages 

Compensatory damages are the most common type of damages received in a personal injury case, or indeed in any civil case. The object of compensatory damages is to “compensate” for losses caused by the injury. This might include funds to cover medical costs and lost wages, both in the time since the incident and to support future needs related to the injury. Payments for emotional distress or pain and suffering are also considered compensatory. 

Nominal damages 

Nominal damages are payments, typically small in size, that are used to communicate that the plaintiff won the case even if compensatory damages are not awarded. Most nominal damages are $1, though they can be slightly higher. The goal of these types of damages is not to make the plaintiff whole, but rather to ensure it is clear on the legal record who won the case. This may be particularly relevant if one is in a state where a defendant can be ordered to pay legal fees for the plaintiff.  

Overall, the main goal of almost all personal injury cases is to receive compensatory damages. These funds are often vital to someone who is seriously injured, allowing for quality of life to be maintained as much as possible under the circumstances. Chicago individuals and families who have been seriously injured and wish to seek such damages can speak with a personal injury lawyer about their case.