special damages

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Related to special damages: general damages, exemplary damages

Special Damages

Pecuniary compensation for injuries that follow the initial injury for which compensation is sought.

The terminology and classification of types of damages is varied, at times contradictory, and often confusing. The term "special damages" is one such term that can produce uncertainty, depending on the jurisdiction and context in which it is invoked.

Special damages are sought in lawsuits based on contract and tort. They are asked for in addition to "general damages." These two types are classified as Compensatory Damages and are both designed to return persons to the position they were in prior to the alleged injury. For example, if a person was injured in an automobile accident, the victim could seek damages that would cover medical expenses, damage to the motor vehicle, and the loss of earnings now and in the future. Each of these would be classified as special damages. If the victim sought a money award for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium, these would be classified as general damages. Thus, special damages are based on measurable dollar amounts of actual loss, while general damages are for intangible losses that can be inferred from special damages as well as other facts surrounding the case. In this description special damages are damages that are reduced to a "sum certain" before trial. This description is typically used in tort actions.

However, the definitions of special and general damages are reversed in contractual disputes. Thus, general damages in contract would include the difference between contract and market prices, the difference between the value of the goods as delivered and as warranted, and interest on money that has been wrongfully withheld. In contrast, special damages would include all other damages. In contract special damages and "consequential" damages are virtually interchangeable. In this context the losses flowing out of the breached contract could be compensated for as special damages. For example, the lost profits that resulted from the failure of the seller to deliver the goods could be claimed as special damages. However, it is commonplace for sellers to require buyers to sign a contract excluding the recovery of special or consequential damages.

In addition, special damages are sometimes described in statutes when the legislature seeks to identify specific types of awards that are available when the state or a private person violates a person's rights. For example, a statute may list the special damages plaintiffs are entitled to if their real property is improperly taken through Eminent Domain.

Further readings

Ball, David. 2001. David Ball on Damages. Denver, Colo.: National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

Dunn, Robert L. 1998. Recovery of Damages for Lost Profits. Westport, Conn.: Lawpress Corp.

Greene, Edie, and Brian H. Bornstein. 2002. Determining Damages: The Psychology of Jury Awards. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.


Lawsuit; Restitution.

special damages

n. damages claimed and/or awarded in a lawsuit which were out-of-pocket costs directly as the result of the breach of contract, negligence, or other wrongful act by the defendant. Special damages can include medical bills, repairs and replacement of property, loss of wages, and other damages which are not speculative or subjective. They are distinguished from general damages, in which there is no evidence of a specific dollar figure. (See: damages, general damages)

special damages


SPECIAL DAMAGES. Such as actually have been suffered, and are not implied by law. Vide Damages, Special; and 1 Chit. Pl. 385; Com. Dig. Action on the case for Defamation, D 30, G 11.

References in periodicals archive ?
While special damages must be specifically alleged in the plaintiff's complaint and proved to the jury, general damages allow for relief under a slightly more lenient standard.
Special damages consist of items of loss which are peculiar to the party against whom the breach was committed and would not be expected to occur regularly to others in similar circumstances.
proceed only on the false light claim without proving special damages.
31) Relying on the Safeco decision, Hynes Properties argued that special damages were recoverable.
General damage awards vary enormously conditional on a given level of special damages and, while general and special damages are positively correlated, the relationship is not linear.
Recently, it has been shown that settlement values for subjective injury claims are systematically lower relative to special damages.
The tribunal can order the band to provide social assistance and special damages of up to $20,000 if the band was willful and deliberate in its conduct.
Lowry's sought and the jury awarded a special copyright remedy known as special damages.
The report showed up to the end of March 31 this year it had 15 cases classed as ``certain'' for pay outs with general damages of over half a million and special damages of more than pounds 1m.
Slander in contrast was only treated as a criminal offense when special damages were claimed for imputing to the victim a crime or loathsome disease, or disparaging his or her trade.
Generally, special damages (direct economic loss) must be proven unless the defamation is "on its face.
Ms Stratton was also awarded special damages, bringing the total award payable to her up to pounds 12,888.

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