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New York Appellate Tribunal Reviews Reasonableness of Jury’s Award for Pain and Suffering in Car Accident Case

In most Syracuse car accident cases that are not settled prior to trial, the amount of money damages to which an injured person is entitled is a matter to be determined by the jury. There are multiple factors to be considered in assessing the amount due, and the jury does have a fair amount of latitude in making its determination.

This is not to say, however, that the plaintiff’s fate in completely in the hands of the jury. There are certain checks on the system, including the possibility that the amount awarded by the jury may be set aside by an appellate court. When this happens, the reviewing court may issue what is called an “additur” or a “remittitur,” in which a more reasonable amount is suggested and, if the parties agree, the judgment is then modified to reflect the agreed upon amount.

If the opposing party does not agree to the suggested award, he or she has the option of appealing the matter further or having the matter returned to the trial court for a new trial.

Facts of the Case

In an automobile accident case tried in the Supreme Court of Westchester County and appealed therefrom, the plaintiff was a man who sought to recover fair monetary compensation for injuries that he suffered in a crash allegedly caused by the defendant motorist. Prior to trial, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that there were no genuine issues of material fact on the issue of the motorist’s liability for the accident. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff and awarded him summary judgment on the issue of liability.

The case then proceeded to a trial by jury on the amount of money damages to which the plaintiff was entitled due to the injuries that he suffered in the accident. The jury’s verdict assessed damages of $100,000 for past pain and suffering, $50,000 for future pain and suffering, and $50,000 for future medical expenses. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, modified the lower tribunal’s order entering judgment upon the jury’s verdict by deleting the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff for his past pain and suffering and his future pain and suffering and remitting the matter to the lower court for a new trial on these issues of damages unless the defendant agreed to increase the damage for past pain and suffering from $100,000 to $300,000 and to increase the damages for future pain and suffering from the $50,000 to $200,000. (The court did not disturb the future medical expenses award.)

In so holding, the reviewing court noted that the plaintiff had suffered a herniated disc at C5-C6 as a result of the accident and that he had undergone spinal fusion surgery. The plaintiff’s medical expert witnesses had also opined that substantial future medical care was to be expected, including surgery, physical therapy, and pain management. While a jury’s verdict was generally entitled to great deference, a particular verdict might be disturbed if it deviated materially from what would be considered reasonable compensation, as the reviewing court held was the situation in the case at bar.

Speak with an Experienced Syracuse Car Accident Attorney

Getting a fair settlement or judgment in a motor vehicle accident case can be a contentious undertaking, even when liability seems clear. Insurance companies do not like paying out on personal injury or wrongful death claims, even when it is obvious that their insured caused an accident that seriously hurt (or even killed) an innocent party. To talk to a seasoned car accident attorney about your case, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, for an appointment. You can reach us through this website or by calling 833-200-2000. We do not collect a fee until your case is successfully resolved, so please do not hesitate to call us regarding your Syracuse accident case.

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