Damages law


Damages law refers to the legal framework within which compensation is claimed for and awarded at court. Damages are defined as the compensation for a loss or injury suffered by the claimant, as a result of the defendant’s action.

How the compensation is awarded changes depending upon which type of law the claim is brought under. A personal injury claim, for example, would most likely be brought in tort law.

Tortious damages seek to put the claimant in the position as he or she would have been in had the incident complained of not occurred.

In contrast, if the claim is brought for a breach of contract (in contract law), the courts award damages that would restore the party’s position had the contract was fulfilled properly.

In other words, damages law looks back in tort, but looks forward in contract. Our pages on contract law and tort law go into more detail about the differences between these fields.

Calculating damages

Calculating damages is known as assessing quantum. It is split into two main areas ‘special’ and ‘general’.

  • Special damages

This is compensation that can be specifically calculated. For example, if you were employed but had to take time off work after an accident, you can calculate precisely how much money you have lost. Or, if your goods were broken, you can claim for the cost of replacements. Special damages are claimed in the majority of cases.

  • General damages

This is compensation for more subjective injury, such as pain and suffering. They are not always claimed and can be difficult to assess. They will of course never be claimed in cases brought by companies rather than individuals.

If you are bringing a claim and are seeking damages, it is important to be realistic in your evaluation of those damages. This is especially true if you end up going to trial and receiving the award of damages from the court.

The court usually orders the legal costs of the successful party to be paid by the unsuccessful party. However, if the losing party shows it was willing to pay the amount awarded (or close to it) without litigation, and the winning party refused this amount because it overestimated the damages it should receive, the court is likely not to award the legal costs to be paid.

In this case your monetary award will in reality be reduced dramatically because the legal costs will have to be paid by you, rather than the defendant. Visit our page on legal costs to learn more about the financial considerations of legal process.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on damages law, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local litigation solicitor free of charge. Do you have any questions? Would you like our help in finding local litigation solicitors? Call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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