What Damages Can I Collect For a Car Accident?

Unfortunately, driving is a hazardous activity. National motor vehicle crash statistics reveal the following:

  • Six million crashes occur each year in the U.S.
  • Three million people sustain injuries in these crashes.
  • Two million of them receive permanent, life-changing injuries.
  • Over 90 people die in a car crash every day.

In New York City alone, 243 people died in car crashes in 2020.

When you’re injured in a car accident, you naturally want someone to compensate you for your injuries so you’re not faced with paying your own medical and other expenses. But how much can you reasonably expect to collect and how do you go about making a claim?

New York No-fault Insurance Law

As you likely already know, New York is a no-fault state. What this means is that when you’re injured in a car accident, you must first file a claim with your own auto insurance company or with the company that covers the car in which you were riding. You have a maximum of 30 days after the date of your accident in which to do this.

What you may not know, however, is that this no-fault insurance only pays you for your medical expenses and lost wages, and only up to $50,000. It pays you nothing for your pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. If you want those covered, or if your medical expenses exceed $50,000, you’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused the accident and therefore your injuries.

Severe Injury Threshold

In order to file a lawsuit, you must have sustained a serious injury. A serious injury is defined as one which causes one or more of the following:

  • Dismemberment or one or more of your limbs
  • Significant disfigurement, such as from severe burns
  • Fracture
  • Permanent loss or limitation of use of one or more of your bodily members, organs, functions, or systems
  • Medically determined injury or impairment that prevents you from performing substantially all of your customary daily activities for at least 90 days

Statute of Limitations

Assuming your injuries qualify as serious, New York’s statute of limitations gives you three years from the date of your accident in which to file your lawsuit.

Compensatory Damages

When you allow Cellino Law to pursue a lawsuit on your behalf, you can expect to recover two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic.

Economic Damages

Your economic damages consist of your medical expenses and your loss of wages or salary.

Medical Expenses

Your medical expenses include such things as the following:

  • Ambulance or life-flight transport from the accident scene to a hospital
  • Hospital treatment, i.e., emergency room assessment, diagnostic tests, prescription drugs, surgery, etc.
  • Rehabilitation services, i.e., physical, occupational, and recreational therapies
  • Necessary equipment, i.e., wheelchair, walker, crutches, cane, etc.
  • Follow-up doctor visits and therapy sessions

Keep in mind that your medical expenses include not only those you’ve accumulated to date, but also those you can reasonably expect to encounter in the future. For instance, if you must buy a hospital bed because you require in-home care after your hospital release, this becomes part of your medical expenses. Likewise, the purchase of your own wheelchair or a prosthesis if your injuries result in paralysis or the loss of a limb are legitimate ongoing medical expenses. If your injuries result in severe vision loss or total blindness, the purchase of a white cane is part of your ongoing medical expenses.

Loss of Wages or Salary

As with your medical expenses, your loss of wages or salary includes both the income you lose while in the hospital recovering from your injuries and the loss of income you can expect in future years if your injuries result in a partial or total disability that prevents you from returning to your current job.

Non-economic Damages

Your non-economic damages are those for which you receive no actual bills. In other words, they’re subjective in nature, but nevertheless very real. Typical noneconomic damages include those that compensate you for the following:

  • Physical, emotional, and mental suffering
  • Resulting conditions, such as PTSD, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Loss of your ability to fully perform your daily activities
  • Loss of your ability to fully participate in the sports and other recreational activities you engaged in prior to your accident
  • Loss of your personal identity because you now need to use a wheelchair, a prosthesis, or a white cane in order to get around
  • Embarrassment over having to go out in public with disfiguring scars, especially on your face
  • Loss of your overall enjoyment of life

While they may be considerably more difficult to calculate, your non-economic damages are often substantially greater than your economic damages.

Punitive Damages

In rare situations, you may also receive punitive damages. Unlike your economic and non-economic damages which are compensatory in nature since they compensate you for your injuries, punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for his or her particularly egregious acts or failure to act. For instance, if the car that hit you was traveling at an excessive rate of speed at the time of the accident, the jury may well find that the driver’s lack of regard for human life deserves punishment, i.e., the award of punitive damages.

While few personal injury cases result in the award of punitive damages on top of compensatory damages, these damages, when awarded, can easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Expert Witnesses

As you might expect, a personal injury lawsuit can become very complicated very quickly. One of the main reasons for this is the massive amount of medical records that become part of it. These records are filled with medical terminology that laymen don’t understand. Consequently, one of the most important ways in which a personal injury attorney can help you is by accumulating and organizing this data and then engaging medical experts to serve as your expert witnesses at trial.

The purpose of an expert witness is to explain to the judge and jury the nature, extent, and consequences of your injuries in terms that these laymen can relate to and empathize with. In other words, your expert witness is tasked with making your injuries real to the judge and jury. He or she accomplishes this by testifying in a calm, clear, and succinct manner. While never talking down to the judge and jury, he or she instead makes complex and potentially confusing evidence easier for them to understand.

Comparative Negligence

New York is a pure comparative negligence state. What this means for purposes of your personal injury lawsuit is that your own negligence in causing the accident that resulted in your injuries will be taken into consideration when determining the number of damages you can collect. If it’s determined that you were partially to blame for the accident, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. For instance, if the jury determines that you were 52% responsible for the accident, your overall damages will be reduced by 52%.

For over 60 years, Cellino Law has been helping injured clients, including those who suffered serious injuries in a car accident, obtain the compensation they need and deserve. To date, we’ve overseen more than $2 Billion in settlements and jury awards. While our past results do not predict future outcomes, we are, nevertheless, proud of this impressive track record of results.










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