General Damages

General damages, also known as non-economic damages, are a fundamental concept in the realm of law, particularly in the context of civil lawsuits and personal injury claims. These damages represent the compensation awarded for losses that are not easily quantifiable in monetary terms.

Understanding General Damages

General damages are a category of compensation designed to provide redress for losses that do not have a specific, easily calculable dollar value. Unlike special damages, which compensate for tangible and quantifiable financial losses such as medical bills or property damage, general damages address more subjective and intangible losses. These losses may include physical and emotional pain, suffering, mental anguish, and the impact of an injury or harm on the claimant’s overall quality of life.

Types of General Damages

  • Pain and Suffering: This is one of the most common types of general damages. It compensates the claimant for physical pain and emotional distress endured due to an injury or harm caused by the defendant’s actions or negligence. Pain and suffering encompass not only the present discomfort but also the expected future suffering resulting from the injury.
  • Mental Anguish: Mental anguish or emotional distress damages are awarded for psychological trauma, anxiety, depression, or other emotional or mental harm caused by the defendant’s actions. These damages acknowledge the real and significant impact of such distress on the claimant’s well-being.
  • Loss of Consortium: In cases where an injury or harm has affected a claimant’s relationship with their spouse or family, loss of consortium damages may be awarded. These damages compensate for the loss of companionship, support, and intimacy resulting from the injury.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: This category of general damages accounts for the reduction in the claimant’s ability to enjoy life’s pleasures and activities due to the injury. It acknowledges the diminished quality of life resulting from the harm.
  • Disfigurement: When an injury causes physical disfigurement or scarring, the claimant may receive general damages to compensate for the negative impact on their appearance and self-esteem.
  • Inconvenience: General damages may also be awarded for the inconvenience caused by the injury. This could include limitations on daily activities, pain associated with such activities, or the need for ongoing medical treatment or therapy.

Significance of General Damages

General damages serve several critical purposes within the legal system:

  • Fair Compensation: They ensure that claimants receive fair compensation for intangible losses that are often overlooked in strictly financial terms.
  • Recognition of Suffering: General damages acknowledge the physical and emotional suffering endured by the claimant, promoting a sense of justice and validation of their pain.
  • Deterrence: By holding defendants accountable for causing pain and suffering, general damages may deter negligent or harmful behavior.
  • Restitution: These damages aim to restore the claimant to a position as close as possible to their pre-injury or pre-harm condition.
  • Holistic Compensation: They provide a more holistic approach to compensation, addressing the full spectrum of harm experienced by the claimant, not just economic losses.

Determination of General Damages

Determining the amount of general damages is a complex process that relies on various factors, including:

  • Severity of Injury: The more severe the injury or harm, the higher the general damages are likely to be. For instance, a debilitating injury resulting in lifelong pain and suffering may result in more substantial general damages.
  • Impact on Life: The extent to which the injury or harm affects the claimant’s daily life, relationships, and overall well-being is a crucial consideration.
  • Medical Evidence: Medical records and expert testimony play a vital role in establishing the nature and extent of the claimant’s physical and emotional suffering.
  • Legal Precedent: Courts often consider past cases with similar circumstances and injuries to determine an appropriate range for general damages.
  • Jurisdictional Factors: The laws and legal standards in a particular jurisdiction can influence the calculation of general damages.

It’s important to note that there is no fixed formula for calculating general damages, and their determination can vary from one case to another.


General damages are a vital component of the legal system, providing compensation for intangible losses and suffering endured by claimants in civil lawsuits and personal injury claims. These damages recognize the real and often long-lasting impact of physical and emotional pain, suffering, and distress. Understanding the nature and significance of general damages is essential for both legal professionals and individuals seeking recourse through the legal system.

If you have questions about general damages or need legal assistance with a personal injury claim, please contact us. For more legal definitions and information, you can visit our glossary.

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