If you suffer a bodily injury that Louisiana law holds someone else financially liable for, you may have a personal injury claim. You probably qualify for monetary compensation for all of the losses you suffered, both tangible and intangible.
Louisiana law offers two classifications of compensation—economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are easy to count, and they represent tangible losses.
Contrast With Non-Economic Damages
The best way to remember the contrast between economic damages and non-economic damages is that economic damages are tangible, while non-economic damages are intangible. This is an oversimplification, of course, but it works most of the time. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
This list is not exhaustive. Remember that the value of your non-economic damages is quite likely to exceed the value of your economic damages.
Examples of Economic Damages
Economic damages consist primarily of medical expenses, lost earnings, out-of-pocket expenses, and property damage.
When most people think of personal injury compensation, they think of medical expenses. The most important idea to remember about medical expenses is that you should seek prompt medical treatment after an accident. The adrenaline rush that typically follows an accident can convince you that you’re not hurt even when you are. Delaying medical treatment can damage or even destroy your personal injury claim.
Your medical expenses must be “reasonable and necessary,” which rules out most alternative medicine, even popular remedies such as acupuncture and chiropractic services. There’s nobody to stop you from trying these treatments, it’s just that you will probably never see reimbursement for them.
Current medical expenses
You can and should claim every dime of your medical expenses that accumulate up until the time that you filed your claim. This includes (but is not necessarily limited to):
- Diagnostic tests, including X-rays, blood tests, CT scans, and MRIs;
- Ambulance transport;
- Emergency room visits;
- Medical treatment;
- Prescription and non-prescription medication; and
- Doctor’s visits; and
- Follow-up medical care.
You can claim any reasonable and necessary medical expenses you receive a bill for. Make copies of all of your medical bills and receipts, and keep them together in a file.
Anticipated future medical expenses
You reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) when your doctor certifies that your medical condition has improved as much as it ever will. This means you will receive no further medical treatment, or at least your future medical expenses will be reasonably predictable.
Do your best to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before you file a claim for medical expenses. That way, you won’t have to speculate about the amount of future medical treatment you will need.
If you have to file your claim before you reach MMI (due to the statute of limitations deadline, for example), you will have to rely on speculation to determine how much to claim. Follow-up medical needs, for example, can include (but are not limited to):
- Additional surgery;
- In-home nursing care;
- Physical therapy;
- Occupational therapy;
- Ongoing treatment; and
- Pain management.
Calculating estimated future medical expenses can get so difficult that you might need an expert witness to help you.
Most income earners lose some money at first due to their injuries. You might have missed work while you were in the hospital or home recovering, for example. If your injuries were serious, you might have had to quit your job. Calculating these amounts can be particularly tricky if you are self-employed or if you work on commission.
Current lost earnings
Your claim for current lost earnings should include earnings you have already lost, not speculative future losses that you have not yet incurred. You can use employment records, tax records, business records, and a letter from your employer to help prove your claim.
Diminished earning capacity
If you suffered a serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury, you might find yourself unable to return to your previous occupation. You might have to settle for a lower-paid position; you might need occupational therapy to transition to a new career, or your injury might force you into an early retirement.
Proving the full extent of your future losses can be challenging. When these losses are large, most personal injury victims call upon the services of an expert witness to offer informed speculation about the amount they should claim. Your lawyer might agree to pay for the witness and deduct them from your eventual compensation.
Out-of-pocket expenses come in many forms. Some of the most common expenses include:
- Childcare expenses during your recovery period;
- Travel expenses (seeing an out-of-town doctor, for example);
- House cleaning expenses, if you hired a third party to perform these duties after having previously performed them yourself; and
- Medical equipment such as wheelchairs.
Keep careful records of these expenses because they can be easy to miss.
You are most likely to suffer property damage in a car accident. Louisiana law requires automobile drivers to carry at least $25,000 in property damage liability insurance. You can file a third-party claim against an at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy.
A Reputable Baton Rouge Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Maximize Your Compensation
In a typical personal injury case, the economic damages you are likely to receive are not as variable as it is with non-economic damages. Nevertheless, you could end up with more or less economic damage depending on the quality of your representation.
This variability increases dramatically if you suffered a catastrophic injury requiring you to seek high speculative future damages. In cases like these, there is simply no substitute for an experienced Baton Rouge personal injury lawyer.