When you are seriously injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to proper compensation not just for your financial losses, such as lost income and expenses, but also for your non-financial losses, otherwise referred to as non-economic losses. Non-financial damages include, most significantly, compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured from the collision and its aftermath.
When Can Car Crash Victims Seek Compensation for Their Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering damages are intended to compensate car accident victims for the physical effects of their injuries. This includes both the immediate and short-term traumatic pain they suffer in and from the crash, as well as the long-term and longer-developing effects and challenges arising from their injuries, including, for example, rehabilitation, physical therapy, diagnostic testing, and surgery. Further, even after undergoing these extensive medical treatments, car crash victims are nevertheless sometimes left with permanent disabilities and chronic pain.
Limitations on Recoveries for Car Crash Injuries in New York
It is important to understand that pain and suffering damages are not available to every person who has been injured in a car accident through the negligence of someone else. Under New York’s No-Fault Law, injured individuals may obtain no-fault benefits regardless of who was at fault for the collision.
In large part, the purpose of the No-Fault Law is to allow a person who has had limited medical treatment but otherwise was not seriously injured to be able to be reimbursed for the costs of their medical treatment without having to sue. However, to be able to pursue a claim beyond that which is provided under the No-Fault Law, that is, to pursue a personal injury claim, the injured person is required to demonstrate not only that the other driver was to blame for the crash, but also that he or she suffered a “serious injury” under the law of New York.
Under New York law, a serious injury is defined as follows:
- Major disfigurement
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
- Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- A “medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment”, or
- Loss of a fetus
How Are Pain and Suffering Damages Calculated in New York?
Unlike financial losses, which can usually be calculated based on past and future expected monetary losses and expenses, placing a monetary figure on the value of a person’s pain and suffering damages can be quite challenging since no two people are the same, and requires substantial analysis.
There are a number of factors that go into deciding what constitutes “fair and just compensation” for pain and suffering in a New York car accident case. These factors include:
- The severity of a person’s injuries and associated pain, their expected duration, the need for rehabilitation, therapy, diagnostic testing, surgery, etc.
- The significance of the restrictions on day-to-day physical activities
- The ability or inability to return to work or school
- The impact on the injured person’s relationship with his or her spouse, children, and other family members
- The injured person’s long-term prognosis and how the injured person’s injuries will affect their life in the future
- The costs of necessary medical care and prescriptions that are not covered under No-Fault
What Needs to Be Proved to Recover Damages for Pain and Suffering?
When seeking financial compensation for pain and suffering, both the existence and extent of the individual’s non-financial damages need to be established. This is accomplished through testimony about the impact of the injuries on the injured person’s life, medical records confirming the short-term and long-term effects of the injuries, expert medical opinion, and other associated documentation and information.
With this in mind, it is a good idea to get into the habit of keeping track of information such as:
- Doctor’s visits and trips to the pharmacy
- Days you miss from work due to your pain and suffering
- Family events you miss due to your pain and suffering
- Your daily pain levels
- Days on which your pain and suffering impact your sleep
- Days on which your pain and suffering prevent you from engaging in other activities
When taking notes, try to be reasonably detailed and make note of anyone else who is aware of the impacts of your pain and suffering. These individuals, including family members, doctors, friends, and co-workers, may be able to testify to corroborate your injury and damages claims.
Can I Recover Compensation for Pain and Suffering If I File a Claim on My Own?
In order to recover monetary compensation for pain and suffering after a car crash, you will benefit greatly from working with an experienced New York personal injury attorney. There are a variety of reasons why, from the need to accurately calculate what is fair and just compensation to the simple fact that the insurance companies may look to take advantage of you and are far less likely to take your claim seriously if you are unrepresented.
An experienced New York personal injury attorney can properly and clearly advise you on your rights under New York State law. This includes issues related to the no-fault system and how best to obtain the maximum justice you deserve for what in many cases are life-changing physical, emotional, and financial damages.
Discuss Your Legal Rights with a New York Car Accident Lawyer
For more information about recovering fair and just compensation for pain and suffering and other damages after a car accident, contact Lever & Ecker, PLLC to schedule a free initial consultation. Our firm is available at (914) 288-9191 or online, and we serve clients in White Plains, Westchester County, New York City, and nearby areas of New York.