When you file a lawsuit against an at-fault party, you could be entitled to damages. However, not all damages are calculated based on the cost of losses you may have experienced. Others are based on laws or statutes. So-called statutory damages are important topics in all personal injury legal cases.
If you still don’t fully understand this type of compensation, please read on. We’ll explain statutory damages and how they can affect your case in detail. Alternatively, you can contact the knowledgeable team of attorneys at Schwartzapfel Lawyers by calling 1-516-342-2200 or visiting us online to schedule your free consultation today!
What Are Statutory Damages?
Statutory damages are a type of damage in civil law. “Damages” in this sense means a monetary award that a case plaintiff may receive if they prove that another party caused some kind of injury to them.
Unlike other damages, statutory damages are awarded based on legal rules and guidelines. “Statutes” or laws sometimes have specific monetary penalties or awards laid out in writing. Under some circumstances, courts will likely award damages based on those statutes, hence the term “statutory damages.”
For example, if you take another party to court for a personal injury, and they violated a law with a written monetary award already on the books, the court may very well decide to award you statutory damages. The court will likely do this instead of calculating damages by hand or considering other factors.
Why Can Statutory Damages Be Awarded?
Statutory damages, in the form of financial compensation, can be awarded for many different types of harm or injuries. Examples here include but are not limited to:
- Both past and future medical bills
- Lost wages or income from injuries sustained
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Certain types of property damage
- Other personal and/or financial losses that directly result from the defendant’s conduct or actions
However, statutory damages may only be awarded for harm or injuries if a statute explicitly states the damage amount. For example, if you experience a specific rights violation, but there isn’t a law outlining what penalty the offender should pay, you cannot pursue statutory damages.
Fortunately, the majority of rights violations do have statutory damages on the books. To discover whether your grievance has statutory damages you can pursue, speak to knowledgeable attorneys right away.
What Is the Difference Between Statutory Damages and Other Damages?
Statutory damages are best understood by contrasting them with other types of damages.
“Actual damages” are tangible or intangible losses that occur because of the actions of the defendant. Thus, a court might award actual damages to directly compensate an injury victim for the specific losses they sustained. Actual damages are oftentimes calculable, at least to some extent. They might be estimated based on previous cases if they aren’t completely calculable.
“Punitive damages” are meant to be punishing in nature. They are awarded to punish the at-fault or guilty party and are often intended to deter future wrongdoing by the defendant and others in society. Punitive damages are usually only awarded if the defendant is particularly reckless, negligent, or malicious in their behavior, so they are much rarer than other damage types.
The difference between statutory damages and other damages is how the award is determined. Statutory damage awards are always predetermined by law (e.g., a law specifically says the dollar amount of damages a plaintiff may be awarded if their lawsuit is successful). Actual and punitive damages are calculated based on the court, although legal precedent often plays a role in those calculations.
What Are Examples of Statutory Damages?
Several examples of statutory damages in American law have had excellent success deterring wrongdoing and rewarding injury victims. These laws were written to incentivize legal action on the part of victims and to disincentivize criminal behavior on the part of corporations, which is why many statutory damages focus on rights violations.
Here are a few examples:
- The Copyright Act is a great example of statutory damages. Plaintiffs filing under the Copyright Act can receive statutory damages of between $750 and $30,000 for every incident during which a copyright under their name is infringed by another party. They can also recover up to $150,000 in statutory damages if another party willfully infringes on the copyright.
- The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act entitles case plaintiffs to recover up to $1,000 for every violation of their consumer rights. It also lets plaintiffs in class action lawsuits obtain either 1% of the net worth of the debt collector or $500,000, whichever is lesser.
- The Telephone Consumer Protection Act gives plaintiffs the right to recover $500 per violation of their consumer protection rights or their actual damages, whichever is greater. They can also recover up to $1,500 per violation if the violations of their rights are knowing and willful.
Given these potential awards, you should speak to knowledgeable attorneys immediately if you believe you are entitled to statutory damages. Schwartzapfel Lawyers comes equipped with more than (150) years of combined experience successfully handling New York personal injury cases. We can help you file an effective lawsuit and pursue the maximum financial award possible, so call us now at 1-516-342-2200 or visit us online to schedule your free consultation and learn more about statutory damages and potential compensation today.
Why Are Statutory Damages Important?
Statutory damages are important for three (3) primary reasons.
Fast Case Resolution
First, they allow courts to hand out damage awards or punishment quickly and easily, especially when it comes to intangible or normally incalculable damages. For example, imagine a case where a defendant is ordered to pay the plaintiff a certain amount of damages for emotional pain and suffering.
It’s impossible to truly quantify the pain and suffering that the plaintiff experienced. But if there’s a law with a statutory damage award, the court can simply order the defendant to pay the plaintiff whatever that amount is and move on to the next case. Therefore, statutory damages are important for expediency and convenience.
Incentives for Plaintiffs and Defendants
Second, statutory damages are crucial because they incentivize plaintiffs to bring matters to court even if they wouldn’t normally recover much money for their trouble. Imagine an instance in which a person is continually harassed by a telemarketer. Were they to pursue actual damages from the telemarketer for their harassment, they may only recover a few hundred dollars at most.
Thanks to statutory damages laid out in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, however, the victim of the telemarketing harassment is incentivized to take the company to court. By the same token, the telemarketing company has a reason not to harass people, as the statutory damages award is much higher than any actual award it would be required to pay.
Lastly, statutory damages are important because, as mentioned above, they ensure that those who have their rights violated or are injured receive fair compensation for their trouble. If a person is seriously negatively affected by the criminal activity of another party, for example, but their damages are immaterial or incalculable, the at-fault party could theoretically walk away without paying a significant fee.
This would make the victimized party worse, particularly when considering attorney fees and other expenses. Statutory damages prevent these outcomes and ensure that victims of criminal activities can walk away with awards that are worthwhile.
Should You Always Pursue Statutory Damages?
That depends on the details of your case. In some circumstances, your seasoned lawyers will likely recommend that you push for statutory damages if the actual damages you could receive otherwise are far lower in monetary value (e.g., your actual damages award is much lower than the written statutory damages award amount).
However, in other instances, pursuing your actual damages might be wiser. If, for example, the statutory award for a given grievance is only $500, but your actual damages are in excess of $1,000, you should petition the court for actual damages instead.
In either case, knowledgeable attorneys can have your back throughout the legal process. They’ll be able to gather evidence for you, present it effectively in court, and coach you on exactly what to say. They can also advise you one way or another about which type of award will most likely be handed down by the court.
Most importantly, legal advisors will likely provide sound counsel and help give you peace of mind. If push comes to shove and your case goes to court, you can rest assured that they will likely provide you with the support and assistance you need to succeed.
Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today
As you can see, statutory damages are just one type of compensation you may consider recovering from an at-fault party. The right legal advisors can help you determine the ideal damages to apply for based on the details of your case.
That’s why you should contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers right away. Our knowledgeable, highly experienced attorneys will get right to work on your case and dedicate themselves to ensuring an optimal outcome.
Don’t wait. Contact us online or call 1-516-342-2200 to schedule your free consultation today!
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this page should be considered legal advice. You should seek the appropriate counsel your situation requires. For more information, call 1-516-342-2200 now!