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What Does "Damages" mean?

When someone is injured by someone else’s wrongdoing, the injured person may be entitled to compensation. This compensation is also referred to as “damages.” There are three general types of damages: economic; noneconomic; and exemplary or punitive.

Economic Damages / Pocketbook Losses

Economic damages can be thought of as pocketbook losses. These are the damages that can be readily quantified. Texas defines these as “compensatory damages intended to compensate a claimant for actual economic or pecuniary loss.” 

A simple example would be if someone is injured and misses two weeks of work; assuming they were not paid or compensated otherwise, the two weeks of missed pay would be readily quantifiable.

The calculations can be significantly more complex.

For example, if a 30-year-old accountant is negligently killed, an expert economist can calculate what an average accountant would have made from that point forward. This calculation would take into account age, experience, length of career, geographic area, life expectancy, etc. It is complex, but it can be done.

Noneconomic Damages / Human Losses

Noneconomic damages can be thought of as human losses. These things are not readily quantifiable, but they are certainly not worthless. In short, these represent losses for the things we cherish in everyday human life.

Texas defines these as “damages awarded for the purpose of compensating a claimant for physical pain and suffering, mental or emotional pain or anguish, loss of consortium, disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of companionship and society, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, injury to reputation, and all other nonpecuniary losses of any kind other than exemplary damages.” 

For example, if someone sustains a back injury and can no longer go on hikes, which was their favorite hobby, that would be a human loss. If a parent is injured and can no longer play with their young children, that would be another example of a human loss.

Exemplary / Punitive Damages

These are reserved for rare cases where a wrongdoer should be punished through the civil justice system. (Mind you, most punishment from the law occurs through the criminal justice system). 

Texas defines these as “damages awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment but not for compensatory purposes.” In other words, these are punishment for the sake of punishment, nothing else. They are reserved for rare cases where a wrongdoer has acted intentionally or with gross negligence, and the person seeking these is required to meet a higher standard of proof. These damages are rare, but the law authorizes them in some situations.

Cronauer Law aggressively advocates for the rights of our clients who have been injured by someone else’s wrongdoing. We guide clients through the stressful and difficult task of rebuilding their lives after being unjustly injured. Contact Cronauer Law today for a free consultation.

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