In Louisiana, if we hurt someone we must pay for all of their damages. “Damages” is the value of the things that are taken from the victim. There are two broad categories of damages. They are special damages and general damages.
Special damages are specific. We can add them up. They include things like lost wages and medical bills.
Unlike special damages, we cannot measure general damages definitively. They involve human loss like mental or physical pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of gratification of intellectual or physical enjoyment, or other losses of life or life style. In a personal injury lawsuit, any one of (or all of) these things might be taken. If so, these are your damages and they must be repaid.
Special damages have a “ready market value.” We can measure them with relative certainty. The most common special damages in personal injury cases are medical bills and lost wages.
Medical care is expensive. For serious personal injuries, medical bills can be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Through no fault of their own, these victims were saddled with enormous debt to doctors and hospitals. A personal injury lawsuit can help get the doctors repaid. Not only do our clients have past medical bills, they will often have medical and other life care expenses in the future.
The road to recovery can be long. If your doctors find that your personal injuries will need future medical care, then that care is part of your damages. Expert medical testimony is important to show that your injuries will need future treatment, and how it will help you.
To recover for actual wage loss, you must prove the wages you would have earned if not for the accident that hurt you. You do this by showing wages and the length of time missed from work. Typically doctors and bosses testify that the person has not been able to work because of their injuries. Pay stubs or tax records can show wages. Loss of future earnings are more complicated.
Future lost wages are a little different. Unlike past lost wages, loss of future income or loss of earning capacity are not clearly determined by actual loss. They are more speculative because they try to predict the future.
Future lost earnings is not based merely on the difference between earnings before and after the injury. These losses also include the loss of earning potential or capacity. That is, the loss or reduction of a person’s capability to do things she is equipped to do by nature, training, and experience. So if you have a special talent or training, the jury needs to consider those things to figure out the value of future lost earnings.
The law knows that people are not machines. Personal injuries take away more than wages and the ability to work. They create more burdens than simply having to repay medical bills. We are not here to simply survive, earn a paycheck, and then die. The value of life is enjoyment and pride in our human experience.
General damages involve mental pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of intellectual gratification or physical enjoyment, and other factors that impact the victim’s life. They include injuries to character, reputation, feelings, mental suffering or anguish, and other noneconomic wrongs and injuries incapable of money valuation. They are the human elements of loss. Because each client is unique, general damages are different in each case.
Stag Liuzza personal injury lawyers will work with you to identify and prove your damages. If you or someone you know has suffered serious personal injuries, call today for a free consultation.