Louisiana General Damages “Calculator”: How Much in General Damages Is Enough?

Monopoly_ManLet’s say you are defending a bodily injury claim in Louisiana and think that plaintiff’s counsel is asking for “pie-in-the-sky” general damages for his client’s injury. You may want to know the lowest reasonable amount of general damages before a Louisiana state court will declare:

Mr. Defendant: You must pay more general damages. What you want to pay is unreasonably low.

Louisiana appellate courts enforce “benchmarks” on how low a general damage award can be in most types of injuries and we offer the following chart of the “lowest” reasonable amount of general damages awards: [1]

INJURY

LOWEST REASONABLE AMOUNT OF GENERAL DAMAGES

Lumbar Or Cervical Sprains
“Rule of Thumb” for soft-tissue injuries, such as sprains: $2,500 first month, $1,500 second month and $1,000 for each month thereafter for general damages based upon active medical treatment of the plaintiff. [2] 
Wrist Injury Carpel Tunnel Surgery
$60,000 [3]
Unoperated Cervical Disc Herniation
$37,500 [4]
Herniated Cervical Disc with Fusion Surgery
$75,000 [5]
Herniated Cervical and Lumbar Discs-Multiple Discectomies and Fusions for a Single Plaintiff
$250,000 [6]
Knee Injury With Knee Replacement  Surgery
$65,000 [7]
Hip Injury With Major Hip Surgery
$400,000 [8]
Rotator Cuff Tear With Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery
$45,000 [9]
Torn Labrum With Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery
$70,000 [10]
Complicated Fractures of the Arm and Wrist with Multiple Surgeries and Implantation of Metal Plates and Screws
$200,000 [11]
Knee Injury With Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
$14,000 – $15,000 [12]
Mesothelioma
$1,500,000 [13]

CONCLUSION

The “calculator” chart provides defendants with general benchmarks for negotiating a settlement for the lowest reasonable amount of general damages for a plaintiff’s particular bodily injury claim in Louisiana. If you cannot settle a bodily injury claim in Louisiana and a judge or jury awards less than the amounts in the chart, an appellate judge may say: Mr. Defendant – “The amount awarded in general damages is unreasonably low.” 

Of course, the chart and appellate decisions on which they are based do not establish a “bright-line” rule on the amount of general damages a judge or jury in a trial court must award for a particular injury, and the general damages a jury may award in a particular case will vary depending on case-specific factors.[14] However, the cases discussed in this E-Update provide pragmatic guidelines to determine the value of general damage claims against a defendant in a state court in Louisiana.



END NOTES

[1] Louisiana state courts will not increase an award of general damages by a jury or judge in the trial court, unless “an award is so out of proportion to the injury complained of that it shocks the conscience.” See Harrington v. Wilson, 08-544, p. 16 (La. App. 5 Cir. 1/13/09), 8 So.3d 30, 40. If a general damage award meets this criteria in a case, a Louisiana appellate court will determine the lowest reasonable amount of general damages based upon appellate court opinions affirming awards of general damages sustained by plaintiffs with similar injuries. See Joseph v. Netherlands Ins. Co., et al, No. 15-549, pp. 6-8 (La. App. 5 Cir. 2/24/16), 187 So.3d 517, 520-521.

[2] Joseph v. Netherlands Ins. Co., 15-549 (La. App. 5 Cir. 2/24/16); 187 So.3d 517 (lumbar sprain; 18 month active treatment; $24,000 lowest reasonable general damage award).

 

Note: The Joseph case includes a discussion on numerous decisions affirming an award of $1,000/month in general damages for a plaintiff with soft tissue injuries.

Cole v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2007-1046 (La. App. 3 Cir. 6/5/08); 987 So.2d 310, writ denied, 08-1463 (La. 10/31/08), 994 So.2d 535 ( neck sprain; 24 months treatment; $30,000 lowest reasonable amount of general damages); Simon v. Lacoste, 05-550 (La. App. 3 Cir. 12/30/05), 918 So. 2d 1102 (soft tissue back injury; one epidural steroid injection, 24 months treatment; $15,000 lowest reasonable amount of general damages).

Note: Cases in which higher general damage awards for soft tissue injuries were made, e.g., $2,000/month in general damages, can be found in Caldwell v. Anpac Ins. Co., No. 50,333 185 So.3d 846 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/13/16).

[3] See Parker v. Robinson, 2005 0160 (La. App. 4 Cir. 2/22/06); 925 So.2d 646.

 

[4] Pomier v. Moreland, 2006-1117 (La. App. 3 Cir. 2/7/07); 951 So.2d 486.

[5] See Venissat v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 2006-987 (La. App. 3 Cir. 8/15/07); 968 So.2d 1063, see also Andrus v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 95-0801 (La. 3/22/96), 670 So.2d 1206.
[6] Bellard v. American Cent. Ins. Co., 2007-1335 (La. 4/18/08); 980 So.2d 654.

 

[7] See Mack v. Wiley, 2007-2344 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/2/08); 991 So. 2d 479; Henry v. Williams, 39, 318 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/26/05); 892 So.2d 765.

[8] See Thibodeaux v. Stonebridge, LLC, 03-1256 (La. App. 5 Cir. 4/27/04); 873 So.2d 755.
[9] See Davis v. Vosbien, 12-626 (La. App. 5 Cir. 5/16/13); 119 So.3d 100.
[10] See Maddox v. Bailey, 2013-0564 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/19/14); 146 So.3d 590.
[11] See Farmer v. Patrician SLP, LLC, 43, 601 (La. App. 2 Cir. 10/1/08); 997 So.2d 578.
[12] See Henry v. Williams, 39, 318, p. 12 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1/26/05); 892 So.2d 765, 772; see also Mack v. Wiley, 2007-2344, p. 18 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/2/08); 991 So.2d 479, 491.

[13] See Romano v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 2016-0954 (La. App. 4 Cir. 5/17/17); — So.3d —.

[14] Louisiana appellate courts have never reportedly sustained general damages awards in excess of $10 million for an injury to an individual. However, the April 2016 general damage award of $51,500,000 for a severe brain injury in Jones v. Empire Truck Sales of Louisiana, LLC, 2013-4560 (Civ. Distr. Ct. Parish of Orleans April 12, 2016), and a $20,750,000 award for a quadriplegic general damages in Stutes v. Greenwood Motor Lines, 2013-1119 (15th JDC Oct. 27, 2016) could test the upper limit on the amount of general damages for an individual that “shocks the conscience” and warrants a reduction.

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