What are Aggravated Damages?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 12 February 2020
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The area of the law which addresses injury to the person or to property is known as tort law. When a person files a lawsuit based on the tortious conduct of the defendant, the remedy available to the plaintiff, or victim, is monetary compensation if he or she wins the lawsuit. Although the type of compensation that may be awarded to a plaintiff may vary throughout the different legal systems of the world, there are three common categories—actual damages, punitive damages, and aggravated damages. Aggravated damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the emotional injuries he or she suffered as a result of the actions of the defendant.

Most legal systems throughout the world recognize a victim's right to recover compensation when he or she has been injured by the tortious actions of another person. The difference between legal systems is often found in the types of cases considered to be compensable, what level of culpability is required on the part of the defendant, and what type of compensation may be awarded. Within the United States, individual state laws determine what type of compensation may be awarded and under what circumstances. Most states within the United States allow aggravated damages to one degree or another.


A personal injury lawsuit based on a car accident case is a common example of a tort law lawsuit. In a car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff frequently suffered actual physical injuries as well as property damages. Those damages are often called actual, special, or economic damages. In most cases, a plaintiff must first prove some amount of actual damages before he or she is entitled to aggravated damages.

Exactly what qualifies under the category of aggravated damages will vary widely from one jurisdiction to another; however, the concept is that aggravated damages are intended to be compensation for the "aggravation" suffered by the plaintiff. Common examples of what may be included when determining the value of aggravated damages are pain, suffering, humiliation, and emotional distress. As these are clearly subjective in nature, the value of the aggravated damages portion of an award will depend on many factors, including the severity of the actual damages, the defendant's conduct, and the age and general health of the victim prior to the accident.

Punitive damages are also occasionally awarded in tort law cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and, as such, are generally limited to situations where the defendant's conduct was particularly egregious. Product liability tort law cases where the actual and aggravated damage awards are not thought of as sufficient to send a message to the manufacturer are examples of when punitive damages may also be awarded.


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