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Court orders new trial for past pain damages in motorcycle accident case. Melnick v. Chase 148 A.D.3d 1589 (N.Y. App. Div. 2017)

In a personal injury case, “pain and suffering” refers to the physical and emotional distress experienced by the plaintiff due to their injuries. It encompasses the immediate and ongoing discomfort, anguish, and limitations caused by the accident. This includes physical pain from injuries such as fractures, sprains, or internal trauma, as well as emotional suffering like anxiety, depression, or loss of enjoyment of life activities.

Future pain and suffering, on the other hand, pertains to the anticipated physical and emotional distress the plaintiff is likely to endure as a result of their injuries in the future. It considers the long-term impact of the injuries on the plaintiff’s life, including any ongoing medical treatments, chronic pain, or permanent disabilities that may affect their quality of life. Courts evaluate future pain and suffering based on expert medical testimony and evidence presented during the trial to predict the extent and duration of these future hardships.

In legal terms, both types of pain and suffering are elements of non-economic damages sought in personal injury claims. They aim to compensate the plaintiff for the intangible losses and hardships endured due to the defendant’s negligence or wrongful conduct, beyond quantifiable economic losses like medical expenses or lost wages.

Melnick v. Chase, 148 A.D.3d 1589 (N.Y. App. Div. 2017) is a case that involves a motorcycle accident where the jury’s verdict awarded the plaintiff no damages for past pain and suffering but granted $20,000 for future pain and suffering. The plaintiff challenges the verdict, arguing it is inconsistent and not supported by the evidence.

Background Facts
In this personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for injuries sustained by plaintiff in a motorcycle accident, the jury returned a verdict that awarded plaintiff no damages for past pain and suffering and $20,000 for future pain and suffering. Plaintiff appeals from an order that denied his motion to set aside the jury verdict with respect to damages as inconsistent and against the weight of the evidence, and for a new trial on both elements of damages.

Whether the jury’s decision to award no damages for past pain and suffering is consistent with the evidence and whether a new trial should be granted on that specific element of damages.

The court found that the plaintiff did not raise the argument of inconsistency before the jury was discharged, thereby failing to preserve it for review. However, the court determined that the jury’s decision to award no damages for past pain and suffering was against the weight of the evidence. The court ordered a new trial solely on the issue of past pain and suffering damages. Regarding future damages, the court upheld the $20,000 award, noting conflicting expert testimony on the severity and causation of the plaintiff’s alleged future pain and suffering.

The court’s decision rested on expert testimony presented during the trial. It highlighted the conflicting opinions among experts regarding the extent and duration of the plaintiff’s injuries from the motorcycle accident. While the court upheld the jury’s decision on future damages due to this conflicting testimony, it concluded that the verdict on past pain and suffering did not reflect the evidence presented. Therefore, the court granted a new trial specifically to reassess damages for past pain and suffering.

In reaching the conclusion that plaintiff deserved a new trial for past pain and suffering damages, it was noted that defendants’ own expert testified that the motorcycle accident caused a lumbosacral strain or sprain, exacerbating plaintiff’s pre-existing degenerative spinal condition. This injury was expected to last three to six months before healing. Additionally, plaintiff’s treating orthopedic surgeon testified that plaintiff suffered a painful L–3 endplate fracture, resulting in a herniated disc. Given this compelling testimony, the original verdict denying damages for past pain and suffering was deemed unsupported by the evidence and warranted reconsideration in a new trial.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle accident in New York, seeking the counsel of an experienced New York motorcycle accident lawyer is critical. Navigating the complexities of personal injury law requires expertise in gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and advocating in court. Stephen Bilkis & Associates can assess your case, provide clarity on legal options, and work tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.

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