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Pain and Suffering Damages in New York

Clip. Snip. Pinch off a vein there, place a stitch or six, cauterize, and close. Whoops – your New York doctor had a few too many martinis before work and botched your surgery. For her, it’s a nuisance and a threat to her career. For you, her mistake – or medical malpractice – means you’ll have shooting pain in your legs and back for the rest of your life and can no longer drive heavy equipment. Calculating the lost income is easy, but how do you put a price on lifelong pain and suffering – and better yet, will New York allow a jury to set an adequate price? Read on to learn more about pain and suffering damages in New York.

What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?

To many, “pain and suffering” damages are a plot line in a television show, but to accident victims, these damages compensate for the excruciating pain and anguish that a person deals with after an accident or intentional harm by another person. The emotional distress (or “anguish”) portion of these damages often factors in depression, anxiety, loss of sleep, and other mental symptoms that accompany the injuries sustained. These hard-to-calculate pain and suffering awards are often labeled “non-economic” (or “general”) damages.

So, how does a judge or jury make such calculations? They might consider:

  • How much will the injured party’s daily routine be limited or altered?
  • Will the injury impact relationships at home or work?
  • How does the pain or injury affect sleep or other lifestyle factors?
  • Will the injury impact the party in the long term?

Limits on Pain and Suffering Damages

Because these damages are so hard to calculate, many states (and doctors) fear abuse by sympathetic juries in the form of major awards – sometimes many times higher than the actual economic harms caused by the accident. Many states have limited these damages to keep awards under control. While ostensibly reducing the potential for abuse, these laws also limit the recovery available to those who are legitimately injured and suffering excruciating pain or distress.

Fortunately for accident victims, New York has not joined the trend toward enacting caps.

Contributory or Comparative Negligence

Pure comparative fault jurisdiction. Damages are reduced by one’s own percentage of fault, regardless of the amount of fault. (N.Y. Civ. Prac. L. & R. §1411).

Non-Economic Damages


Medical Malpractice


Pure Comparative Fault and Pain and Suffering Damages

New York is a “pure comparative fault” state. In these states, the judge or jury sets percentages of fault for each party, unless a case settles first, and law limits the injured party’s damage recovery by their degree of fault. For example, if a driver is injured in an accident, but was found to be 85 percent at fault, the driver can recover up to 15 percent of his or her damages.

New York: Beloved by Injured Parties and Lawyers, Not by Physicians

New York is one of the rare states that sets no explicit limits on damages – whatever the jury feels is adequate goes (within reason). So, while a jury cannot award $15 million in damages for a paper cut (the trial or appeals court will set aside such a clearly outlandish verdict), an award of a few million dollars to a car accident victim who suffers life-long pain and suffering is probably not all that rare.

Get Expert Help From a New York Accident Lawyer

Injuries sometimes have a ripple effect, where a physical injury causes additional, ongoing pain. Even without limits on your damages for pain and suffering, you’ll still want to speak with a local legal professional about your legal options. An experienced New York injury law attorney can discuss your case, potential legal strategies, and how to maximize your chances of recovery.

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