Accident Lawyer

Nominal Damages refer to a small amount of money awarded to the victim, or the plaintiff, for their victory in their civil case in court. They are generally awarded when a plaintiff proves that their legal rights have been violated or corrupted, but does not demonstrate that they are actually entitled to receive a monetary compensation. The purpose of nominal damages is not to make up for the whole of the financial loss of the plaintiff, but rather, to provide acknowledgement to the plaintiff that they won their case. Due to the fact that it can cost money for the victim to sue the defendant, the court may even order the defendant to pay for the plaintiff’s legal fees, which can range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

What are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages are damages a plaintiff receives after winning a civil litigation case, and the fees for the damages are intended to pay a plaintiff for any economic losses that happened due to the fact that the defendant violated the plaintiff’s rights. These damages can include payment for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and any other minor fee which were the direct and proximate cause of the defendant’s actions. The amount you could potentially receive for these damages are all contingent on the extent, severity, and  amount of loss that the plaintiff faced, and can range from thousands to millions of dollars in compensation. Compensatory damages are the main form of compensation you will receive in a personal injury case. If the plaintiff is able to pass the burden of proof and prove that by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed the negligence that the plaintiff is accusing them of, they will receive compensatory damages. However, if the plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant violated the legal rights but cannot provide evidence of said loss due to the violation, they will be unable to receive compensatory damages. In this case, the court may order nominal damages to take effect so that the plaintiff can receive some sort of compensation.  

How Do Nominal Damages Compare to Compensatory Damages, and Can I Receive Both in my Claim?

Think of nominal damages as additional compensation to your baseline of compensatory damages. They can be added, but they are not required or mandatory. The judge or jury can determine whether nominal damages should be added on top of the compensatory damages in order to aid the plaintiff. 

Why Would A Plaintiff Bring a Claim for Nominal Damages, in Addition to Compensatory Damages?

The plaintiff may ask for nominal damages because:

  • The plaintiff is unaware they will not be able to successfully prove damages during the course of the case, and cannot meet their burden of proof.
  • The plaintiff wants the vindication of a court win, even if they know that there will be no monetary outcome or payment for their losses.
  • The plaintiff wants to recover punitive damages against the defendant.

If you’ve been injured, a personal injury attorney can advise you on the complexities of the law and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.  Thanks to an accident lawyer from Eglet Adams for their insight on nominal and compensatory damages.