General Damages Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is General Damages?

(n) General Damages are the compensation awarded by a court in Lawsuits where claim for the damages, loss or injury cannot be quantified accurately in money terms. Eg. Damages awarded for non performance of contract to play a drama. Here specific damages can be the reimbursement of expenses met by the organizer, General Damages can be awarded for their efforts, loss of fame, loss of profit etc.

History and Meaning of General Damages

General damages refer to the non-monetary compensation awarded by a court of law for the harm or injury suffered by the plaintiff that cannot be measured precisely in terms of money. Such damages are meant to acknowledge the pain and suffering faced by the plaintiff, including physical and emotional injuries caused due to someone else's negligence. The term is often used in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

Courts award general damages separately from special damages that cover the monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant's actions. While the latter can be quantified and calculated easily, the former depends on various subjective factors, such as the extent of the injuries, the duration of treatment, the harm caused to personal relationships, and more.

Examples of General Damages

  1. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, a patient may be awarded general damages to compensate for the physical pain, emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the medical professional's actions.
  2. In a personal injury case, a plaintiff who sustains permanent disfigurement or disability may be awarded general damages to account for the impact on their quality of life.
  3. In a defamation lawsuit, a plaintiff who has suffered damage to their reputation may be awarded general damages to acknowledge the emotional and social harm caused by the defendant's false statements.

Legal Terms Similar to General Damages

  1. Special Damages: Damages that represent the quantifiable, monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff.
  2. Punitive Damages: Damages awarded to punish the defendant for their egregious actions and deter similar behavior by others.
  3. Nominal Damages: A token award of damages that acknowledge the plaintiff's right to compensation but do not intend to cover any actual losses.