That general damages should be about three times medicals is both tired and wrong. Presented as evidence: Kelvin Dunn v. Marquette, a recent bench trial in front of Eldon Fallon in the Eastern District of Louisiana, where general damages are less than medicals. Off duty, Captain Dunn awoke to find his tug, with its tow of two chemical barges, was having some issues. He slipped in the engine room on diesel, and he 'severely fractured' his femoral head. He underwent an emergency surgery and facet joint injections; he will require two total hip replacements.
He was thirty-nine years old, making $124,000 a year before fringe benefits; he could only return to work making $18,000 a year. (The defense expert suggested he could make $125,000 a year if he opened a tattoo parlor. Judge Fallon said LOL no.)
(1) Past wage loss: $234,360.00;
(2) Past fringe benefits and meal loss: $38,760.88;
(3) Future wage loss: $1,665,121.00;
(4) Future fringe benefits and meal loss: $280,041.10;
(6) Future medical expenses: $641,435.89;
(7) Past pain and suffering: $100,000.00;
(8) Future pain and suffering: $400,000.00
Total: $3,359,718.87. This is a massive judgment. But general damages are less than past and future medicals, and the plaintiff was severely injured as a result of the accident. $500,000 strikes me as hardly crazy for these sorts of injuries and surgeries. Wage loss makes up two thirds (66% on the nose) of the entire judgment. The lesson to learn, I would submit, is that cases are going to be fact-specific, and that emphasis has to follow concern: where wage loss is the biggest worry, more emphasis should go there.