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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Monetary Damages

Term Definition Monetary Damages - a cash award by a court to a plaintiff to compensate him or her for loss, damage or injury sustained as a result of the defendantís misconduct.
Application in Divorce America has became a very litigious society, and nothing illustrates this more than volume of legal action in pursuit of monetary damages. Personal injury law, often on a contingency basis, has made the tort lawyer (in some places called the "slip-and-fall" lawyer or "ambulance chaser") a fixture on the American scene. Monetary damages are compensation paid a person who "has suffered loss, detriment, or injury to his person, property, or rights through the unlawful act or negligence of another." These damages may either be compensatory, which are given to make up for the loss, or punitive, which are given to punish the defendant for his or her action. Punitive damages are sometimes called exemplary.

Sometimes, nominal damages (a symbolic payment of $1) are awarded in vindication where no real loss can be demonstrated. Generally, punitive damages are awarded only when compensatory or actual damages have been sustained.

In the calculation of damages, many factors come into play, including economic loss, injury, and pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a term big enough to include not only physical discomfort and bodily distress but also emotional trauma and mental anguish.

Within the term damages are categories, but the most common is called actual damages, which are "real, substantial and just."

In divorce actions, a lawyer is not permitted to graduate his fee based on the size of the property settlement. Success fees in divorce actions are considered unethical.

Alimony, maintenance and child support are not considered damages.

Monetary damages are not normally part of divorce actions, but marital torts, which are now more common, permit spouses to sue each other for damages.

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