In legal terms, damages are monetary awards granted by a court. There are different types of damages that a person who has been wronged can receive. One type, known as compensatory damages, are awards that attempt to compensate one person for losses caused by another. Costs covered by this category of damages can include repair of property, emotional distress, and lost wages.
Compensatory damages are awarded in civil cases. These damages can be awarded by either a judge or a jury. The purpose of these awards is to replace what a person has lost. These efforts are generally based on fair market value and not purchase price. When an award is based on fair market value, this means that it is assessed to determine its worth at the time when it was destroyed or damaged.
A person may also be awarded compensatory damages for losses associated with the inability to use an item. This can be viewed as part of the fair value. Consider, for example, that a drunk driver crashes into a building that houses a beauty salon. A court may deem it fair for the drunk driver not only to pay for repair to the building, but he may be ordered to compensate the workers for lost wages, as well.
Compensatory damages should only compensate a person for what she has lost. The person who has been wronged should not expect any amounts above that. There are damages that are meant to punish individuals who cause harm to others or their property, but those fall into a different category. Compensatory damages are not used for this purpose. They are used to restore the person who was wronged to the position where she was before the damaging incident occurred.
A person’s losses do not always pertain to physical property. In some cases, compensatory damages cover items that cannot be photographed, such as emotional distress or pain and suffering. This is done because if one person causes another to lack peace of mind or causes another to be in pain, the one who is wronged is still recognized as suffering losses. A good example of an instance when such damages would apply includes a case where a person is permanently disabled due to injury by another.
In order to receive compensatory damages, a person must prove that harm was done by the person that she accuses. Harm or destruction of physical property is generally much easier to prove and to be awarded than intrinsic harm, such as emotional distress.