Pain and suffering
Now, property damage, medical bills and lost wages can be relatively straightforward figures to calculate. Pain and suffering and emotional distress, however, can be much more difficult to quantify. These two categories are very subjective, and will depend very significantly on how they are communicated to a jury.
In New York, lawsuits involving damages from accidents and injuries typically proceed through the legal system with the ultimate result of a jury trial (rather than a judge or “bench” trial). In a jury trial a panel of six people, whom you have never met, will listen to the proof and determine both who is at fault and, if they find for the injured person, how much damages should be awarded.
New York Juries must understand your pain
The reality is that each member of a jury brings many years of background to the proceeding, and as a result each member will view your injury from a different lens. The important thing is to be able to show the jury tangible proof of how the injury has impacted your life.
If, for example, you were struck by a driver who was texting and driving, one of the first things you would likely have done is obtained medical treatment for the injuries. This would include seeing a physician or being taken to the emergency room, may have required surgery, and would likely have included a prolonged period of recovery and rehabilitation. The medical records and your own treating physicians would support this, and it is relatively easy for a jury to understand both the impact of the accident on you physically, as well as the potential long-term ramifications of the injuries.
Jurors are often skeptical of lawsuits and accidents, and it is critical that they be shown real, actual proof of the injuries and their impact, rather than just being asked to take your word for how severely you have been injured. When clients come to us seeking representation following an accident or injury, we look for proof of how they have been effected. Does the injury prevent you from playing with your children? From performing your job? These factors, among others, make presenting the pain and suffering claim much easier.
Conveying emotional distress
Non-physical injuries are always more difficult to show. A juror can easily understand how a broken leg from a car accident has impacted your life. It can be much more difficult to show how traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder, have impacted your day to day life.
There are, however, ways to show the emotional or non-physical aspects of the injury. These also include records of treatment with a mental health professional or counselor. They may also include photo or video of your day to day existence – particularly in cases involving a traumatic brain injury it is critical to show a jury how your day-to-day life has been impacted because of diminished cognitive ability.
In the end pain and suffering jury verdicts vary greatly from case to case and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Intangible factors can play a varied role in the calculation – if a jury does not like the victim they will award them less. This is reality. A good serious injury lawyer will position your case and the evidence in such a way so as to show the jury as clearly as possible how the accident or injury has impacted your life and the life of your loved ones.
Injured from an accident in New York? Call us today or complete a confidential questionnaire. We are happy to educate you about your rights, empower you to take action, and guide you to make the right decisions.