The primary reason to sue someone for personal injury in a civil court is to get compensation for what you've lost. This is generally calculated in financial terms, as this is one of the few remedies available in the civil law process. But at times, a plaintiff may pursue a case that seeks only nominal damages.
What are nominal damages? When might such a lawsuit be the right choice for you? And where can you learn more? Here's what a victim needs to know.
What Are Nominal Damages?
Something which is nominal exists in name only or only as a small token. So nominal damages refers to the award of financial damages paid by the defendant to the plaintiff which is only a tiny amount of money compared to normal damages. Nominal damages can be as low as $1. While the plaintiff wins their case, the award is essentially in name only.
Why Do People Seek Nominal Damages?
Why would someone go to the time, effort, and expense of a trial if they only seek nominal damages? There are several common reasons. Perhaps the most popular is when the plaintiff's primary concern is not economic loss but restoring their reputation in public or their industry.
In other cases, the plaintiff believes they were legally wronged but does not have the ability to prove financial loss resulting from the wrong. Not only could a win prove them right in their eyes and the eyes of others, it also allows the possibility of winning punitive damages — which aren't based on actual financial loss.
Finally, someone may be standing up for what they believe is right, such as proving a violation of their constitutional rights.
What Are the Downsides to This Strategy?
As with any legal proceeding, there are always downsides to consider. The most important of these for most plaintiffs is the legal cost of the trial. A person without deep pockets may have to rely on the judge to award them compensation for their legal fees. However, this is not guaranteed.
The other major point to think about is how likely it is that you would win your case even without having to prove damages. It may be worth your time to win a legal victory, but no court victory is ever assured going in.
Where Should You Start?
Is a case for nominal damages right for you? Although it's not the most common choice, it is right in some situations. One place to begin is to meet with a personal injury law service in your state like the Labine Law Firm. They will help you make the best call and build the best case no matter how you want to go about it.