What Would Someone Be Entitled To If They Win a Personal Injury Case?
The person can expect an amount of money for pain and suffering, which is commensurate with the extent of their injury. However, in New York’s No Fault cases, the first $50,000 of lost wages and medical bills would be paid by the person’s own insurance company. This would be regardless of fault because of the no fault statute.
In construction accidents, for example, the person would get a portion and usually if they were employed on the site, then they would get a portion of their wages and medical bills from the workers compensation carrier. The person would ultimately recover an amount of money for lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering but they would then have to payback a portion of it to the compensation carrier because they have a lien under the law.
In every other case in general, the person would be entitled to get an amount of money for pain and suffering and if they were unable to work or if they had a reduced earning capacity, then that would also be something they would be entitled to recover.
How Are Hit And Run Accidents Generally Handled?
Hit and run cases have special rules in New York. Generally, if someone was in their own vehicle or if they were in a vehicle and a driver hit them and then took off but he could not be identified, then by law in every New York State, they would use an insurance policy which has UM or Unidentified Motorist Benefits. This means that if someone was hit by somebody who took off, then their own insurance company would have to step in and provide the benefits that the other insurance company for the unidentified vehicle would have provided.
If someone had Uninsured Motorist general limits of $100,000 and someone hit them and took off, then they would be able to go after their own insurance company for their injuries up to $100,000. The minimum amount is $25,000 over 50, which means $25,000 per occurrence or $50,000 for two people if there were two people involved in the vehicle.
It would be a little bit different if the person was hit by a car while crossing the street. They would still be able to go through their own insurance company if they were crossing the street and were hit by a car that took off, which is something that happens a lot in the city of New York where a lot of people do not drive, especially in Manhattan.
In this case the person would have to go to the MVAIC, which is the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corp. It is like a state fund where someone can apply for benefits and the state fund would step in and basically provide the insurance that the unidentified vehicle should have had.
What Happens When Someone is Injured and Can No Longer Work?
We tend to get expert testimony in those cases, and there are three different variants. One scenario is where someone cannot work at all, in which case we take their tax returns and an economist projects their future lost wages that they would have been able to make if they had not been injured.
Another scenario is where the person is capable of working but they have not returned to work yet, in which case vocational experts would be called in to judge the person’s pre-injury earning ability or earning potential. This would often be based on their tax returns but since they would be unable to do that kind of work because of the injury or they would be unable to do that type of work, based on education and experience, then the vocational experts would judge that these were the types of jobs the person would have qualified for and what wages he would make.
There would also typically be a forensic economist who would compare the two. It might get very complex but they would be able to compare the pre-morbid earning capacity against the post-morbid or post-accident earning capacity and figure out what the difference was. They would make a number of adjustments that would be required under the standard of economic principles such as increasing it by wage growth and increasing it by statistical wage growth and then reducing the money back to present value. Money and overtime can earn interest, so to figure out what someone has due today for money, and what they would lose over the 10 or 20 years, it would have to be reduced to present value.
The third scenario is where somebody was actually working but they were making less than they did in their prior occupation. In that case, the difference in the earnings would be looked at and an economist would do a projection over a number of years. When we talk about loss of earnings we also talk about other things, like if someone was a union member, who was covered under a collective bargaining agreement, then we would include not just the base wage but also the benefits they would be entitled to under the Collective Bargaining Agreement such as insurance, fringe benefits, vacation pay, annuity etc.
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