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What Is The Difference Between General And Special Damages?

The monetary award received by the injured party in a New Orleans personal injury lawsuit is referred to as compensatory damages.  These damages are often divided into two broad categories: special damages and general damages.

Special damages are those damages for which – at least to some degree – an objective value can be determined.  Items such as medical expenses and loss of earnings are included under this category. Special damages have a fixed value based on actual monetary losses that arose or will arise from the injuries.

In contrast, general damages are more speculative and cannot be fixed with mathematical certainty.  General damages consist of categories such as pain and suffering and mental anguish.  They also may include an award for scarring or disfigurement.  While special damages tend to have a fixed value, people’s opinions may vary widely regarding the value of general damages.  As a result, awards for general damages can be inconsistent from case to case, although they usually fall within a certain range.

While an award for damages that is extremely inconsistent with prior similar cases may be reviewed, the Louisiana Supreme Court has taken steps to curb courts from inserting their own views as to the value of a case. The Louisiana Supreme Court has specifically noted that the discretion of the judge or jury in awarding general damages is vast and should seldom be disturbed by a higher court.  Before an appellate court can alter an award, it must find that the record supports a finding that the lower court abused its discretion in reaching the amount of compensation awarded.

If you have suffered a personal injury in New Orleans and have any questions regarding this topic, please feel free to call our office at 504-581-6411 or 855-GERTLER.