Damages Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Damages, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Damages?

In legal terms damage refers to loss of life, property, potential gains which couldn’t be made, lost opportunities, etc. because of (un)intentional design of someone, negligence, out of control externalities (say, natural calamties), and such. Damages also stands for the compensation that is provided by law to the complainant.

History and Meaning of Damages

The term "Damages" is widely used in the legal system to refer to the compensation awarded to an individual or party who has suffered some form of loss or harm due to the actions or negligence of another person, entity or circumstance. The concept of damages can be traced back to ancient civilizations where there were practices of compensating victims of war, theft, or accidents. The modern meaning of damages has been developed and refined over centuries of legal precedent and legislation.

In the context of modern law, damages can be categorized into two main types: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the victim for their loss or harm, while punitive damages are meant to punish the person or entity responsible for the harm and to discourage others from engaging in similar behavior in the future.

Examples of Damages

  • A driver who was hit by another driver in an accident may seek damages for their medical bills, lost wages due to missed work, and pain and suffering caused by the accident.
  • A business owner who has suffered financial loss due to a breach of contract may seek compensatory damages for the amount of money they would have earned if the contract had been fulfilled.
  • A victim of medical malpractice may seek compensatory damages to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress caused by the healthcare provider's negligence.
  • In a case of copyright infringement, the owner of the copyrighted material may seek damages for the revenue lost due to the infringement.

Legal Terms Similar to Damages

  • Restitution: A remedy in which the court orders the defendant to restore what they took from the plaintiff.
  • Liability: The legal responsibility for one's actions or inaction.
  • Negligence: A failure to take reasonable care when performing an action that results in harm to another person.
  • Tort: A wrongful act that causes harm or injury to another person, for which the victim is entitled to compensation.