Money damages fall into two categories: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate an injured party for his or her injury. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a wrong doer. In some jurisdictions only compensatory damages may be recovered. In order to warrant the recovery of damages, the defendant should commit a wrongful act which should result in damage to the plaintiff. A wrongful act without damage does not constitute a cause of action.
Compensatory damages are classified as either general or special. General damages are those that necessarily result from the injury which forms the basis of the complaint. Special damage must be specially pleaded. Although special damages need not be the necessary and usual result of the wrong, they must be a proximate result thereof.
Punitive Damages are those designed to punish a wrongdoer and to deter the wrongdoer from engaging in similar conduct in the future. The Supreme Court of the United States in a number of decisions has limited the award of punitive damages through the due process of law clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Punitive damages are awarded in cases under tort law. Although punitive damages are not awarded to compensate an injured party for his or her loss, in some states punitive damages are recoverable as compensation to the plaintiff not as punishment of the defendant.
Nominal Damages are awarded to the non breaching party when only a “technical” injury occurred resulting in no actual damages. The amount awarded is ordinarily a small amount, such as a dollar, which varies according to the circumstances of each case.