One of the most important and challenging steps in seismic vulnerability and performance assessment of highway bridges is the determination of the bridge component damage parameters and their corresponding limit states. These parameters are very essential for defining bridge damage state as well as determining the performance of highway bridges under a seismic event. Therefore, realistic damage limit states are required in the development of reliable fragility curves, which are employed in the seismic risk assessment packages for mitigation purposes. In this article, qualitative damage assessment criteria for ordinary highway bridges are taken into account considering the critical bridge components in terms of proper engineering demand parameters (EDPs). Seismic damage of bridges is strongly related to the deformation of bridge components as well as member internal forces imposed due to seismic actions. A simple approach is proposed for determining the acceptance criteria and damage limit states for use in seismic performance and vulnerability assessment of ordinary highway bridges in Turkey constructed after the 1990s. Physical damage of bridge components is represented by three damage limit states: serviceability, damage control, and collapse prevention. Inelastic deformation and shear force demand of the bent components (column and cap beam), and superstructure displacement are the most common causes for the seismic damage of the highway bridges. Each damage limit state is quantified with respect to the EDPs: i.e. curvature and shear force demand of RC bent components and superstructure relative displacement.