DEFENSE OF CIVIL DAMAGE
Civil damages are monetary awards owed to a winning plaintiff by the losing defendant
in a civil case tried in a court of law. Civil damages can be compensatory, general,
punitive, or any combination of these. Compensatory damages include compensation for
expenses such as medical bills, legal costs, loss of income, and costs associated with
repairing or replacing damaged property. General damages include payment for
nonfinancial damages, such as pain and suffering. Punitive damages include payment for
losses caused by the gross negligence of a defendant.
Estimating liability in civil cases depends greatly on the type of damages. Calculating
compensatory damages is very straightforward because the damages claimed are equal to
the plaintiff's costs. Legal fees are part of compensatory damages, which makes
settlements desirable in many cases.
Although general damages are more difficult to predict, there is a large body of case
law and precedents to help. Punitive damages are often the most challenging to estimate.
Punitive damages could be much higher if the defendant engaged in willful or negligent
misconduct. On the other hand, some states limit punitive damage awards. It is also much
more difficult to prove punitive damages.
Defense of Civil Damage:
There are several defenses an individual or organization can raise if a civil liability
lawsuit is brought against him. The following defenses are absolute negative defenses;
they defeat the claim by undermining and denying an important part of the case. Some
common negative defenses include:
Contributory Negligence – where the defendant will claim that the injured party
contributed to his own harm, and thus the defendant should not be held liable. If the
injured party was contributory negligent then he will not be able to recover.
Comparative Negligence – if a court determines that more than one party is liable for
the harm caused, it may split the liability among the various liable parties. So one party
may be responsible for 60% of the damages while another party will be liable for the
remaining 40%. An example of comparative negligence is a car accident where one
driver is driving too fast, and another is driving without headlights.
Assumption of Risk – if a court determines that the injured party engaged in a dangerous
activity, the court may find that he or she assumed the risks associated with the dangerous
activity and is responsible for their injury. This defense is used infrequently now because
of the development of the comparative negligence doctrine.
Limitation on Liability Clauses – many contracts between parties contain limitation on
liability clauses which protect one of the parties from liability in the event of injury or
harm to the other party.
Act of God – defendants cannot be responsible for events outside human control, such as
natural disasters. This was used in certain cases in Louisiana and other southern states
after Hurricane Katrina caused massive economic damage.
Superseding Cause – defendant is not responsible because defendant did not cause the
injury; someone or something else did.
Civil lawsuits are very complicated and can be very costly. If a civil liability lawsuit has
been brought against you, a civil lawyer can advise you of your legal rights and defenses.