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How Are Damages Assessed in Personal Injury Cases?

Any number of situations can warrant a personal injury case – including car and transportation accidents, instances of negligence, product defects, and medical malpractice. While every case is different, New York law ensures that injured parties can seek monetary compensation to assist with medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and even non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering. Here’s a look at how compensatory damages may vary from case to case and what you should consider if you decide to pursue a settlement.

Personal injury lawyers discussing damages with client in personal injury case NYC

Understanding Compensatory Damages

In personal injury cases settled outside the courtroom, the injured plaintiff and the defending party usually agree upon a specific monetary amount of compensatory damages, which are awarded to the plaintiff either by the defendant or an insurance provider. Compensatory damages may be paid to the plaintiff in one of two ways: As a lump-sum payment given all at once or as a structured payment, in which damages are paid out regularly over an agreed-upon time frame. In order for a settlement to be initiated, the plaintiff must agree to give up their right to pursue further legal action against the defendant.

Important Factors to Consider

The amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff varies among cases, depending on the severity of the injury, the length and nature of the victim’s recovery period, and the type of accident that led to the injury in the first place. Additionally, the defendants, their lawyers, and their insurance companies will try their hardest to undervalue a defendant’s claim in order to pay out as little in damages as possible. When all is said and done, the value of a settlement is determined by considering the economic and non-economic losses suffered by the plaintiff.

Types of Damages

Damages awarded in a settlement include losses that can be directly linked to documented expenses, such as medical bills and property damage, as well as losses that are more intangible, such as pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and long-term disability. From general to punitive injuries, here are some of the damages often considered in personal injury cases.


Available in many New York personal injury cases, general damages include all losses that are not explicitly monetary but instead affect the victim’s quality of life after the accident. These damages are commonly sought in cases involving injuries due to premises liability and workplace accidents.

Pain and suffering

Many general damages fall under the umbrella of “pain and suffering,” a term that describes the physical, mental, and emotional trauma a victim experiences as the result of an accident. These damages may include long-term disability, physical scarring and disfigurement, and loss of opportunity or quality of life. Because these losses don’t have an exact monetary value, an experienced personal injury attorney can use computer programs and formulas to determine an appropriate amount based on the factors of the case.


Medical damages are much easier to calculate than general or pain and suffering damages. Attorneys can utilize medical bills and receipts to demonstrate past medical costs, and they can also use supporting evidence to predict the costs of future medical needs and ongoing treatment. Medical damages are common in personal injury cases, but they often play a particularly important role in medical malpractice and wrongful death claims.

Property Loss

Property loss damages are also easy to calculate. Using documents such as repair bills, receipts, and property replacement estimates, injury attorneys can determine how much money is required to fix or replace physical property damaged or destroyed by an accident.


Instead of compensating a victim for specific losses, these unique and relatively rare damages are designed to punish the negligent party and deter others from repeating an offense. Generally, these types of damages are reserved for cases that involve severe negligence or particularly reckless behavior.

Settlement Amount

In personal injury cases that settle before going to trial, settlement amounts are determined based on a number of factors. As mentioned above, specific bills and records easily factor into the total amount. A personal injury attorney may also negotiate an amount based on what he or she thinks a jury would decide if the case were to go to trial. This proposed settlement value might depend on the severity of the injury, any anticipated long-term outcomes for the victim, and whether the fault is clear-cut.

Ready to Make Your Case? The Leav & Steinberg Team Can Help

There are many different kinds of personal injury cases, and if you’re the victim, navigating your legal options can feel overwhelming. Our team at Leav & Steinberg LLP has years of experience handling a wide variety of personal injury cases and helping clients receive the compensation they deserve. Request a free consultation today with a personal injury attorney in New York, NY, by filling out our online contact form.