Personal injury law uses the term “damages” to refer to the losses you sustain because of someone else’s negligence. The first step in ensuring you receive an adequate payout to cover those losses is identifying all available compensatory damages from your accident. This includes how the accident and your injuries impacted you psychologically.
What Are the Common Economic Damages in a Motorcycle Accident Case?
How did the accident and your injuries affect you financially? Any losses you can directly connect to the collision are potentially recoverable. Every case has some variation of the following economic damages:
- The cost of medical care. You can claim medical bills for emergency services rendered by first responders and hospital staff, doctor’s visits, necessary surgeries and medications, medical devices and ongoing treatments, such as rehabilitative care.
- Your lost income. The at-fault party is liable for all wages lost during your recovery and loss of earning capacity if your injuries result in a disability.
- Property damage. You can claim the cost of repairing or replacing your motorcycle and any other damaged property.
- Replacement services. If you need to hire someone to help with household duties or childcare during your recovery, you can also claim those expenses.
Valuing and proving these losses is relatively straightforward. You can present medical bills, professional estimates, pay stubs and receipts for applicable services as evidence.
What Are the Common Non-Economic Losses Associated with Motorcycle Accident Cases?
Non-economic losses are less objective but just as impactful as economic damages. These losses reflect how the accident and your injuries affected you mentally and emotionally. For example, motorcycle accidents are more severe than most auto accidents, and motorcyclists commonly suffer devastating injuries. The law recognizes the psychological impact and allows you to claim those losses. Common examples include:
- The physical pain and suffering from your injuries and medical treatments
- The emotional distress and mental anguish associated with a traumatic accident
- Anxiety, depression and any other psychological diagnosis following the collision
- Loss of consortium caused by injuries impacting your intimate spousal relationship
Proving these losses is slightly more complex. You may need statements from people in your life who can testify to your changes post-accident. You can also use testimonies from medical and mental health professionals with experience treating patients in similar situations.
How Do You Measure the Value of Non-Economic Losses?
How do you know the monetary value of your non-economic losses? New York court recognizes two methods for calculating pain and suffering: the per diem method and the multiplier method. The latter is the most widely accepted technique.
The Per Diem Method
The per diem method requires the insurance adjuster to assign a dollar amount to the pain and suffering endured and multiply that by every day you have to deal with the physical and mental impact of the accident and your injuries. However, issues often arise when trying to identify an appropriate daily rate. Injuries requiring long-term treatment make it challenging to choose the correct number of days to apply it.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method is arguably more effective and accurate for valuing pain and suffering. The process starts with calculating the medical bills collected from your injuries and multiplying that total by a number between 1.5 and 5. The number chosen depends on certain factors:
- How the injuries impact your daily life
- The severity of your injuries
- How quickly you should recover
- Whether you will recover completely or develop a disability
- The clarity of liability for the injuries
A lower number might indicate injuries with an anticipated full recovery and minimal impact on your day-to-day life. On the contrary, a higher number, such as four or five, indicates severe injuries with a lasting and substantial impact on your life.
Can You Receive Punitive Damages From a Motorcycle Case?
The purpose of compensatory damages is to replace what you lost and make you as much whole as the law and financial recovery can. Punitive damages differ in that they do not compensate for anything. However, New York tort law allows an award of punitive damages in cases where the jury determines the at-fault party’s actions displayed remarkable recklessness or malicious intention.
For example, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and simultaneous excessive speeding is reckless and displays a complete disregard for the safety of others on the road. In that case, the court may award punitive damages to set a precedent for that behavior in your jurisdiction and hold the at-fault driver accountable for their actions. To ensure punitive damages are an effective deterrent, they are often substantial.
Will Shared Fault Impact Your Ability To Recover Damages?
Everyone operating a vehicle on the road, including motorcyclists, owe a duty of care to other drivers, meaning they must obey the laws of the road to ensure the safest possible conditions. Failure to uphold that duty can result in an accident, and sometimes, more than one party is responsible. If you are partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, your role in the accident will impact your compensation. Still, it does not automatically render you unable to collect damages.
New York applies the pure comparative negligence rule to cases where both parties share fault for the accident. The general concept is to allow you to recover a portion of your losses equal to the other driver’s percentages of fault. For example, suppose the court values your compensatory damages at $40,000 and finds you 10% liable for the accident. In that case, you could only recover $36,000 in damages.
What differentiates pure comparative negligence from modified comparative negligence is that your percentage of fault under the pure version of this rule does not disqualify you from receiving compensation unless you are 100% responsible for the accident. However, under the modified version, which applies in most other states, the plaintiff cannot recover losses if they are more than 50% at fault.
Will New York’s No-Fault Auto Insurance Policy Impact Your Ability to Collect Damages?
New York drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance as part of the state-mandated insurance requirements. They then turn to this insurance to recover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages, but the law does not mandate PIP coverage for motorcyclists. While this may seem like a disadvantage, there are benefits to using the at-fault system:
- You can claim non-economic losses, which are not covered under PIP insurance.
- You can recover the total amount of lost wages.
- You can hold the at-fault party in your case accountable for their actions.
Can a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Help You Value Your Claim?
Adequately valuing your claim ensures you receive the compensation you need to rebuild your life after a devastating motorcycle accident. Every case is unique, and without experience in tort law, you risk overlooking recoverable damages that could add significant value to your claim. A motorcycle accident lawyer in New York could help you identify your losses and ensure you accurately measure the non-economic losses available to you. At Cellino Law, we help victims of negligent drivers recover compensation every day. Contact us to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced attorney today.
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