Duhaime's Law Dictionary


General Damages Definition:

Damages not readily calculated such as pain and suffering.

Related Terms: Non-pecuniary Damages, Special Damages, Damages

In the 2009 case McIntyre v. Docherty, and borrowing slightly from Andrews v. Grand & Toy Alberta, Justice Lang of the Ontario Court of Appeal for published these helpful words in explanation as to the concepts of general damages and special damages:

"Damages are initially categorized as either special or general.

"Special damages generally compensate a plaintiff for pre-trial pecuniary out-of-pocket or positive losses.

"In contrast, general damages compensate for negative losses, which can include both pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses."

In legal history, the terms general damages and special damages developed concurrently and often distinguished the one from the other. Consider these words of Justice Macnaughten (aka "Lord Macnaughten") in the 1905 English case, Ströms Bruks:

"General damages as I understand the term, are such as the law will presume to be the direct natural or probable consequence of the act complained of.

"Special damages, on the other hand, are such as the law will not infer from the nature of the act. They do not follow in ordinary course; they are exceptional in their character and therefore much be claimed specially and proved strictly."

Several decades later, this from British Transportation Commission v Gourley:

"In an action for personal injuries the damages are always divided into two main parts. First, there is what is referred to as special damage, which has to be specially pleaded and proved. This consists of out-of-pocket expenses and loss of earnings incurred down to the date of trial, and is generally capable of substantially exact calculation. Secondly, there is general damage which the law implies and is not specially pleaded. This includes compensation for pain and suffering and the like, and, if the injuries suffered are such as to lead to continuing or permanent disability, compensation for loss of earning power in the future."

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