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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Personal Injury Awards

Term Definition Personal Injury Awards - awards paid to compensate or punish for a hurt or damage done to a personís body, as distinguished from his property or reputation.
Application in Divorce 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. Generally, punitive damages are awarded only when compensatory or actual damages have been sustained.

In some types of litigation, such as personal injury case, an attorney may be paid on a contingent basis -- a percentage of the award recovered. In divorce actions, attorneys may not charge a contingency fee; yet in some jurisdictions, family and marital law actions following a divorce, such as enforcement of property division, may be on a contingent basis. Tort actions between spouses may be brought "outside the dissolution of marriage arena," and thus on a contingent basis. In personal injury cases, such fees are often regulated by court rule or statute. See ABA, Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.5(c), (d).

Personal injuries include marital torts, which are legal actions between spouses. At one time, a husband and wife had what was termed "spousal immunity"; that is, they could not sue each other for harmful actions committed during their marriage. Most jurisdictions have now repealed the doctrine of spousal immunity, permitting spouses (usually women) to bring marital torts (usually personal injury actions) in connection with domestic violence.

Marital torts, moreover, can be lodged in connection with intentional or neglect acts, including the transmission of sexual diseases, psychological distress and emotion injury, slander and libel as well as dissipation of community property.

Lawyers who specialize in personal injury torts -- the "slip-and-fall" lawyer or "ambulance chaser" -- win awards based on 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. (In some jurisdictions, recovery for pain and suffering is restricted.)

See also Punitive Damages; Tort; Marital Tort; Compensatory Damages; Punitive Damages; Attorney Fees; Monetary Damages.

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