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General damages: Definition, Example and Related Terms

What are General damages ?

An easy way to understand it is considering it as a money award that doesn't have a direct dollar value. Typically, they are for losses you can’t easily put a price tag on. These are things like emotional distress, pain and suffering, or a reduction in life quality because of an accident or a broken agreement.

Interesting to know that general damages aren’t something you can calculate using receipts or bills. Instead, they are often deduced by gauging the severity of pain, loss, or disadvantage that a person has experienced which is then paired with precedents - past cases with similar situations.


  • Imagine you're at a birthday party. You're having fun, but then a clown, hired by the host, accidentally pops a balloon near your ear and you lose a part of your hearing. The money you would claim for the hearing loss, distress, and the unexpected change to your life are what we call 'general damages'.
  • Scenario General Damages
    You order a large super deluxe pizza for your family gathering but a wrong pizza is delivered causing inconvenience and disappointment. The distress and embarrassment in front of the family can be considered as general damages.
    You booked a hotel but once you reach there, find out the hotel was overbooked. Your booking is cancelled causing you to scramble for last minute accommodation. The inconvenience, stress and the change in your holiday plans are examples of general damages.

Related terms