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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Burnham

Can I Get Pain and Suffering Damages in a Breach of Contract Case?

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Attorney resting his hands on a boardroom table, preparing to consult with his clients

In civil litigation, breach of contract cases are quite common, and they typically revolve around financial damages incurred due to a failure to fulfill contractual obligations. However, in certain situations, a breach of contract can also lead to emotional distress and personal suffering for one or both parties involved. This begs the question: Can you seek pain and suffering damages in a breach of contract case? Let's explore this intriguing legal issue.

Understanding Breach of Contract

Before delving into the possibility of obtaining pain and suffering damages, it's essential to comprehend what a breach of contract entails. A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties that outlines the terms and conditions of their relationship. When one party fails to fulfill their obligations as stated in the contract, it results in a breach.

Common examples of breach of contract include a tenant failing to pay rent, or may include situations where a party fails to provide a product or service as promised, fails to deliver goods on time, or violates specific terms outlined in the contract.

Compensatory Damages in Breach of Contract Cases

In standard breach of contract cases, the goal of seeking compensation is to put the injured party in the position they would have been in had the breach not occurred. These are known as "compensatory damages" (i.e., actual damages) and typically include economic losses such as financial losses, lost profits, or costs incurred due to the breach. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded, but they are usually rare and reserved for instances of egregious misconduct or intentional harm.

Pain and Suffering Damages in Personal Injury Cases

In contrast, pain and suffering damages are commonly associated with personal injury cases, such as car accidents or slip and fall incidents. These damages aim to compensate the victim for the physical pain, emotional distress, and reduced quality of life resulting from the injury.

The Distinction: Breach of Contract vs. Personal Injury

While both breach of contract cases and personal injury cases involve damages, they serve different purposes and address distinct types of harm:

Breach of Contract: In a typical breach of contract case, the focus is on financial losses incurred due to the failure to uphold contractual obligations. Emotional distress is not usually a recoverable element, as contracts are primarily designed to govern commercial relationships and do not directly account for emotional well-being.

Personal Injury: In personal injury cases, pain and suffering damages are an integral part of the compensation sought, as they address the physical and emotional toll inflicted by the negligent or intentional actions of another party.

Exceptions: When Pain and Suffering Damages Might Be Recoverable

Though pain and suffering damages are generally not recoverable in breach of contract cases, there are exceptions where they might be sought:

Special Circumstances: In rare instances, courts may consider awarding pain and suffering damages if the breach of contract also involves severe emotional distress or mental anguish resulting from the defendant's intentional or egregious misconduct.

Concurrent Personal Injury Claim: If a breach of contract case arises from a situation that also caused personal injuries, such as a car accident caused by a contractor's negligence, the injured party may pursue a separate personal injury claim to seek pain and suffering damages.

In most standard breach of contract cases, pain and suffering damages are not recoverable, as these cases primarily focus on financial losses resulting from the breach. However, as with many legal matters, there can be exceptions depending on the specific circumstances and the laws of the relevant jurisdiction. As a civil litigation and personal injury attorney, it is crucial to be well-versed in the intricacies of the law to guide your clients appropriately and seek the most appropriate compensation for their losses. If you find yourself involved in such a case, consulting with an experienced attorney is essential to explore your legal options fully.

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