How Louisiana Determines Damages for Personal Injury

When a court award damages, the judges commonly look to whether or not that pain and suffering can be attributed to the defending party, the amount of time a victim suffered, and how much pain and suffering occurred. The cause is perhaps the most important aspect of whether or not a party will be awarded damages. It makes little sense for a defendant to have to pay for pain and suffering to the plaintiff if the defendant’s actions did not cause that pain and suffering. Then, the length and intensity of the suffering will help determine how much money will be awarded.

In a recent case, the plaintiff appealed from the Parish of Lafayette to the State of Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit based on the issue of damages. In this case, the plaintiff was in a car accident where she suffered significant damage to her back. As a result of this injury, she spent approximately twenty-eight months with the chiropractor attempting to correct the damage sustained to her lower back.

Although the victim visited the chiropractor before the accident occurred, the doctor recorded the services rendered before and after the accident. The doctor stated that the victim’s injuries worsened and the accident definitely caused the worsened condition. The lower court awarded general damages and medical fees, but it only ordered enough general damages that would cover seven months after the accident. It explained that the victim was already seeing the chiropractor; therefore, the services she received after the accident were only relating to a condition that was already present before the accident.

The medical fees awarded covered the victim’s chiropractic visits for the entire twenty-eight month period in which she was treated. The general damages were a much larger sum; however, the Court of Appeals decided that those damages still needed to be increased from the amount that the trial court awarded.

General damages are used to compensate the victim for pain and suffering. This type of damages is difficult to quantify; they “involve mental or physical pain and suffering, inconvenience, the loss of intellectual gratification or physical enjoyment, or other losses of life or life-style which cannot be definitely measured in monetary terms.” In this case, the victim, who traveled frequently for work, could not travel in her vehicle for more than an hour, had trouble lifting things, and getting in and out of her car became increasingly difficult. She also complained that she had trouble doing normal housework, which strained the relationships in her family over time. Obviously, the victim’s life-style changed significantly.

The appeals court ruled that it made little sense that the lower court would award medical expenses for the entire twenty-eight month period but would award general damages for pain and suffering for only seven months after the accident. The court wanted to correct this inconsistency. In order to make this correction, the court needed to determine what a reasonable amount of damages for this type of injury would be. The court looked to past cases where the victim suffered a similar accident and similar injuries. Once it found such a case, it can use it as a range of possible damage awards.

The Court of Appeals increased the general damages from $20,000 to at least $43,000. The medical expenses awarded stayed at $6,458. In addition, the plaintiff attempted to get monetary damages for future medical expenses, but there was some confusion as to whether the victim would actually need any future medical care, so the court did not award damages for this purpose.

The court has this much-generalized process to determine damages in order to provide some structure in how victims are awarded money after they are injured. A competent attorney can help victims walk through the court’s process.

The Berniard Law Firm can help with this process as well. Call The Berniard Law Firm toll free at 1-866-574-8005 and we will be happy to discuss your personal injury case with you.