In the previous articles we have discussed the general and special damages implicated in a tort suit. These damages are implicated as a means of compensating the victim for the injuries sustained. Louisiana also allows for the recovery of economic damages in the nature of lost wages and loss of earning capacity. As with all elements of damages, these losses must be proved with reasonable certainty and cannot be speculative.
Lost wages differ from loss of earning capacity claims. Lost wages are based upon work actually missed due to an injury. Gross rather than net wages are to be utilized in determining the extent of the loss. As a general rule, lost wages can be proved by the testimony of the injured victim without the necessity of any economic expert.
Loss of earning capacity, while different from past lost wages, necessarily takes into account the amount of wages earned, but other considerations also come into play. The award of loss of earning capacity damages must be predicated on a residual disability related to the accident and is based upon the expected work life remaining. There are also considerations implicated by the ability to continue working, albeit in a different capacity and for a lesser wage. In this regard, the law provides for an offset/reduction for the ability to earn the lesser wage. Unlike past lost wages, loss of earning capacity claims require the involvement and expertise of an economist.