Compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit are due when a person has suffered physical, mental, emotional and/or property damages. Compensatory damages usually are the result of some type of accident. If you file a claim or personal injury lawsuit, you are requesting compensatory damages from the person or entity that caused your injuries.

You are awarded compensatory damages to restore you to the position you were in before the accident happened – also called “making you whole again.” Generally, there are two major types of compensatory damages:

  • Special damages: Intended to restore you to the position you were in before the accident. This type of damages includes those that can be easily calculated, such as medical costs, property damage, lost earnings, and out of pocket expenses.
  • General damages: Can be awarded for losses that cannot be easily calculated. These can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship. These damages usually are arrived at by multiplying your special damages by a number from 1-5 depending on your level of suffering, but insurance companies have other ways to determine your general damages.

To receive compensatory damages, you must prove several aspects of the claim. First, you are required to prove that you suffered a loss and that it was caused by the defendant. You must show the conduct of the defendant caused your losses.

In most situations, the loss is caused by a type of negligence by the defendant. For example, it could be the defendant’s poor or irresponsible driving that caused your injuries. He might have run a red light speed and rear-ended your car, causing you a concussion and whiplash.

To prove your claim, you need to collect evidence to support your case, which often includes:

  • Witness statements
  • Photos and video that are related to the accident
  • Documents such as police reports and medical bills
  • Physical evidence, such as damage to your vehicle
  • Any other evidence or items that can help the judge determine your damages


Compensatory damages can be awarded in many types of personal injury claims. Most personal injury cases involve some type of compensatory damages being awarded, although most claims are resolved before going to court. Common types of claims where compensatory damages can be awarded are:

  • Car crash claims. If another driver hits you with their vehicle and did so in a negligent fashion, they may be responsible for your personal and property injuries.
  • Slip and fall cases. If you slip and fall on another person’s property, you could be entitled to damages for your injuries, if the owner of the property engaged in negligence that led to the dangerous situation that caused your injury.
  • Assault and battery. If a person strikes you and causes injury, they can face both criminal and civil cases, the latter of which can include compensatory damages for your injuries.
  • Dog bite cases. If the person was aware the dog was dangerous and did not make sure it was secure from others, you could be entitled to compensatory damages. However, laws on dog bites vary from state to state, so check with your attorney.
  • Injuries caused by defective products, such as car tires that blow out after limited use.