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What Are Non-Economic Damages in New York?

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What Are Non-Economic Damages in New York?

What Are Non-Economic Damages in New York?Non-economic damages cover the effects of your injuries that do not have a direct financial impact on you. “Pain and suffering” is often dismissed and believed to be a method to pay a settlement or damages award. However, both pain and suffering are real and are often a necessary consideration in making you whole after an injury from circumstances like a car accident.

Here are some things you need to understand about non-economic damages in New York and the ways you can document your non-economic losses.

The Role of Damages

Damages serve two purposes in an injury claim:

  • They are required to be able to prove negligence.
  • They tell a jury or insurance company how much compensation you need to cover your losses from the accident.

Without an accurate accounting of your damages, you could receive far less than you need to fully compensate you for your injuries.

Economic Damages

Economic damages have a measurable financial impact on you. Economic losses include financial costs such as:

Medical Expenses

Out-of-pocket costs for treatment, therapy, and medications are included in economic damages.

Lost Income

Suppose your injuries prevented you from working. The income you lost while you missed work would be included in calculations for economic damages.

Diminished Earning Capacity

If you have severe injuries, you might need to change jobs. If your new job pays less than your old job did, the difference in pay qualifies as a form of economic damages.

Property Loss

Economic loss can include the cost to repair or replace your car after a car accident.

Juries can easily calculate economic losses because the value is reflected on bills and pay stubs.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-Economic DamagesNon-economic damages are not tied to a financial cost. Instead, they compensate for the changes in your life caused by your accident that do not have a dollar value. Some examples include:

Pain

Physical pain can change your life. Physical pain can be compensated through economic damages that reimburse you for treatment and medication. It can also be compensated through non-economic damages that compensate you for insomnia, discomfort, inconvenience, and other hard-to-measure effects.

Suffering

Mental pain can change your life. Anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression are just a few of the disorders that can arise from an accident. Mental pain can be compensated with economic damages to pay for counseling and medication. Mental pain can also be compensated with non-economic damages to compensate for the loss of enjoyment of life, inability to drive or participate in other activities, and other effects of mental pain.

Emotional Distress

Mental anguish can come from experiencing a traumatic event, like a truck accident. It can also arise from the distress of going through medical treatment or a job loss that comes from an injury. It can even come from seeing a loved one injured or killed in the same accident. The grief and mental anguish that you experience can be compensated through non-economic damages.

Diminishment in Quality of Life

Your quality of life may diminish after an accident. The mental and physical trauma might prevent you from doing the things you want or need to do. You might feel depressed if you are not able to visit family and friends. You might be confined to bed and unable to exercise. This diminishment of your quality of life can be included in the calculation for non-economic damages.

Loss of Activities

Non-economic damages can include compensation for lost activities. These could be significant, like losing the ability to drive or do yard work after a spinal cord injury, or they could be smaller, like losing the ability to sew or fish after losing a limb.

Loss of Consortium

Consortium is a name for the social and familial relationship you have with your spouse, partner, or children. The inability to engage in companionship, affection, emotional support and sexual relations are all counted toward a loss of consortium. Loss of these important aspects of life can be included in non-economic damages in a claim brought by spouses or partners of accident victims.

In New York, non-economic damages are only available for an auto accident if you suffered a serious injury. A serious injury includes:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment or significant disfigurement
  • Broken bone
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Loss of an organ
  • Impairment of a body function or system
  • An injury that prevents the performance of the person’s usual and daily activities for at least 90 days

If a serious injury exists, an injured person can file an action for non-economic damages against the at-fault driver. This limitation only applies to auto accident injuries. It does not apply to other areas, such as medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, or product liability incidents.

Calculating Non-Economic Damages

Calculating Non-Economic Damages

New York law does not define a formula for calculating non-economic damages. Instead, juries can offer an amount that seems fair based on the circumstances. But economists can provide a guide for quantifying non-economic damages. Two of the theories that might be applied include:

The Multiplier Method

The jury picks a multiplier on a scale of 1.5 to 5.0 for the non-economic losses. The multiplier is selected based on the severity and duration of the losses. For example, a permanent injury that causes major diminishment to a person’s quality of life could be assigned 5.0. The jury multiplies the economic damages by the multiplier to calculate the total damages.

So if an injured person has $100,000 in economic damages and a multiplier of 3.0, the total damages award is $400,000. $100,000 of this represents economic damages and $300,000 represents non-economic damages.

The Per Diem Method

The jury assigns a daily value to the non-economic damages. The daily value is based on the severity of the injuries and the impact on the injured person’s life. The jury multiplies the daily value by the number of days the injury persisted. For example, a daily rate of $150 suffered over 100 days produces non-economic damages of $15,000.

To assist a jury or claim adjuster in calculating your non-economic damages, you will need to document your non-economic losses. Some ways you can prove your damages are:

  • Tell your doctor about your pain. Your medical records should include your doctor’s notes about the pain you suffered and the pain medication prescribed.
  • If you see a therapist or counselor, include your treatment provider’s records with your claim for non-economic damages.

You should consider hiring a lawyer to help you evaluate and document your non-economic injuries. The lawyer will then be able to present your case for non-economic damages to a jury.