What sort of legal remedies are available if I sue?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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Legal remedies are ways in which a right is enforced or the means by which a violation of that right is reconciled. The types of legal remedies that are available to you will vary depending on the type of litigation that you are involved in. For example, there may be a broader array of remedies available to someone who is suing under tort laws than for someone involved in a breach of contract dispute. In general, however, the legal remedies that are available are broadly divided into equitable remedies and monetary remedies.
Equitable legal remedies are so named because there used to be a separate court, called a court of equity. Today, there is no separate court system for obtaining equitable remedies but the rules are slightly different none-the-less for these types of legal remedies. Equitable remedies occur when the court orders someone to do something other than pay money to compensate for their violation. For example, a court may issue an injunction that prevents someone from doing a given action. The court may also require "specific performance," which would be a mandate that a defendant who has breached a contract actually perform the specific terms of the contract. Equitable remedies are usually awarded only if and when monetary legal remedies wouldn't be appropriate. For example, if a disgruntled Coca-Cola employee threatened to release the Coke recipe to the public, the court might issue an injunction to stop him from doing so because it would be impossible to ever calculate the monetary damages of such an action. Equitable remedies usually come into play in breach of contract cases.
Monetary remedies, on the other hand, just involve the payment of money for damages. These are used in both breach of contract and tort cases. However, in a breach of contract case, the plaintiff usually can recover only for actual financial loss. In a personal injury or tort case, the plaintiff's monetary legal remedies can include damages for financial loss (medical bills and lost wages) as well as for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and even punitive damages in some cases.
If you have questions about a specific case of obtaining legal remedies or need more clarity, consult an attorney.