Civil remedies and their purpose

The overall purpose of civil remedies is to restore the aggrieved (injured) party to the position they were in prior to the infringement. The most common remedy used is damages. However, the court can also grant injunctions.


Damages are a monetary amount, awarded to the plaintiff to help to restore them to the position they were in prior to the infringement. There are many types of damages, which all address specific circumstances. However, a plaintiff can be awarded more than one type of damages.

  1. Compensatory damages: this is the main type of damages awarded. As the name suggests, their aim is to compensate the plaintiff for the infringement of rights that was inflicted upon them.
    • Specific damages: these are damages that can be calculated exactly. For example, specific damages may cover medical expenses or loss of wages.
    • General damages: these can not be calculated exactly, but are assessed based on the wrong done and the long term consequences. For example, general damages may be awarded to take into account future earnings, and pain and suffering.
    • Aggravated damages: these are awarded when the defendant has enacted humiliation and insult on the plaintiff.
  2. Nominal damages: a small amount of money paid when the plaintiff legally had their rights infringed, but little actual damage was done to them (for example, in defamation cases).
  3. Contemptuous damages: a tiny amount of money may be awarded when the court acknowledges that the plaintiff has a legal right to damages, but not a moral one. The court will award a very small amount of damages to show their contempt for the action.
  4. Punitive/exemplary damages: the aim of these damages, rather than to restore the plaintiff to their original position, is to punish the defendant. This can occur when the defendant was violent or cruel.


An injunction is a court order which prohibits or demands an action. An injunction may be interlocutory (temporary, also known as an interim injunction), or ongoing.

  • Restrictive injunction: prevents an action. For example. The injunction may prevent a party from demolishing a building.
  • Mandatory injunction: compels an action. For example, the injunction may demand a formal apology.

See also:

Criminal sanctions