In personal injury cases, there are different types of compensation that may be awarded, including past medical expenses, future medical expenses, past pain and suffering, and future pain and suffering. Medical expenses are economic damages. Past medical expenses are relatively easy to determine as they are simply the bills from the victim’s doctor, hospital, and therapists, as well as the fees for medication and medical equipment. Fees for future medical expenses are more speculative in that it would be based on medical testimony as to the type of treatment that the victim is like to have to have in the future—sometimes years in the future. The jury would have to decide on the credibility of competing medical testimony as to what is likely to happen in the future.
Pain and suffering is even more difficult to determine. With past and even future medical expenses, the basis for the calculations are the costs of specific treatment. Pain and suffering is compensation for the physical pain that the victim suffered as well as the emotional pain. For future pain and suffering, the life expectancy of the victim is a significant factor in determining the amount of damages. For example, if the victim ends up with a permanent limp or with permanent facial scars, the “suffering would be for the rest of that person’s life. If they are 20-years old at the time of the accident, the length of suffering would be much longer than that of a 20-year old victim because generally, the life expectancy of a 20 year old is longer than the life expectancy of a 70-year old.
Background and Injuries
On February 12, 2013, 61-year old plaintiff Lusia Reinoso was exiting a city bus down the wheelchair ramp. She was walking behind her patient who was in a motorized wheelchair when. Without warning, the ramp started to move, throwing Reinoso onto the sidewalk.
She suffered serious injuries to her knee, shoulder, spine, and hip. The injury to the knee was an internal fracture of the lateral tibial plateau, a resulting bone contusion, and a mass serration and tearing of her medial meniscus (Tr. 397, 404). Because surgeries to repair the damage were unsuccessful, the plaintiff had to undergo knee replacement surgery. Plaintiff’s shoulder injury also required surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, labrum tears, a tear of the bicep, and post-traumatic impingement syndrome. The injuries to her hip would likely require her to have hip replacement surgery. Reinoso filed a lawsuit against the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA).
The jury found that the bus driver was 100% at fault and awarded Reinsoso $5,000,000 for past pain and suffering, $319,000 future for future pain and suffering, $5,000,000 for future medical expenses, including custodial care and rehabilitation services, and $121,000 for lost wages, and $60,000 for future lost earnings.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant NYCTA were dissatisfied with the ward for pain and suffering- the plaintiff wanting it to be increased and the NYCTA wanting it to be decreased. The court found that the award for past pain and suffering was too high and future pain and suffering two low. The award was changed to $2,700,000 for past pain and suffering and $1,400,000 future for a total of $4,100,000. The NYCTA requested a new trial, arguing that the damages for medical expenses was excessive.
The court agreed with the defendant that the $5,000,000 award for medical expenses was excessive and reduced it to $3,598,706 . However, the judge affirmed the $4,100,000 pain and suffering award.