What is an Irreparable Injury?

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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 January 2020
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Irreparable injury is also called irreparable harm or irreparable damage, and is most often used in civil cases for tort claims or other civil wrongs. It’s a legal term used to describe injuries that compensation is not sufficient to remedy. The court must often use injunctive relief instead, including temporary restraining orders and final injunctions. Plaintiffs have to provide proof of irreparable injury before courts can grant a request for an injunction. The opposite of irreparable harm is reparable injury that can be remedied by monetary damages, including punitive damages.

The main purpose of proving irreparable injury is to prevent the defendant from continuing with certain acts. The plaintiff often asks the court to block the defendant’s activity by awarding an injunction instead of monetary damages. For example, a non-custodial parent might seek injunctive relief from a court to force a custodial parent to provide medication to a sick child. Money is often not a suitable remedy in those cases, because it doesn’t solve the problem of getting medical treatment to the child. Even prior to a formal court proceeding, a plaintiff can request a temporary restraining order to block an activity or cause the defendant to maintain the same course of action if he can prove imminent harm and that there are no other appropriate alternative remedies.


Most laws require that proof of irreparable injury must be actual and not based on theory. Plaintiffs must also show that the harm will occur in a certain time and not indefinitely. The reason for this is that courts want to avoid awarding injunctive relief based on fears and not actual circumstances. It’s sufficient to prove that the harm is likely to occur based on facts and evidence in order to meet the actual requirements. Plaintiffs in some cases must show past events and acts in order to show the likelihood of a future act that will lead to irreparable injury.

Economic loss is often not considered an example of irreparable harm. Although the loss may be harmful, it’s often not categorized as a serious wrong that must be remedied by something other than monetary compensation. Courts will often look to punitive and pecuniary damages as remedies. The wrongs that do qualify include imminent danger to a person’s being or property. For example, a court may rule that a defendant has to stop visitations with a child in order to prevent child abuse.


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