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Compensatory vs. punitive damages

The spring weather has been so beautiful lately that you decided to go for a jog in Central Park. Unfortunately, when you crossed the street to catch the bus, a distracted driver struck you, resulting causing you to break your arm and dislocate your knee. Rather than stop and see if you were hurt, the driver kept going. Fortunately, witnesses noted the license plate number and the driver was identified.

You’re lucky that your injuries weren’t fatal. In early January 2017, Transportation Alternatives estimated that hit-and-run fatalities in New York City had increased 37% since 2014 despite an emphasis on traffic safety. Many of these negligent drivers are never apprehended: in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, the NYPD arrested only 13 defendants in 38 fatal hit-and-run accidents.

New York law requires drivers who injure others to remain at the scene and contact the police and emergency services. If they do a hit-and-run, you can sue them for two types of damages: compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory damages

Compensatory damages are intended to make you financially and emotionally ‘whole’ after the accident. Common examples include:

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Reduced capacity to maintain gainful employment
  • Pain and suffering that prevents you from enjoying life
  • The cost of repairing any damaged property (e.g., if you were riding a bicycle at the time of the collision)

These damages reflect the law’s position that if someone else caused you to become injured, you should not have to pay for your own recovery and losses. Even if the negligent driver couldn’t be identified, you could file a claim under your insurance policy’s Supplementary Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist, which also allows compensation for pain and suffering. Because there are time limitations for filing this type of claim, it’s a good idea to seek help from a New York personal injury attorney.

Punitive Damages

New York judges and juries have awarded punitive damages in hit-and-run cases. As their name suggests, these damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future. If you only request compensatory damages and the court or jury feels that the amount does not fairly compensate you for everything you’ve suffered, they can add punitive damages to your award.

If you have been injured in a hit-and-run or other accident that suggests callous disregard on the part of the defendant, contact a New York personal injury attorney immediately. You don’t deserve to be stuck with high medical bills and reduced ability to work after an accident that was not your fault. Your attorney will fight for you to ensure that the compensation you receive is fair for your present and future needs. Jayson Lutzky has helped recover millions of dollars for damages for his clients over the past 35+ years. In a free in-person consultation, Mr. Lutzky can help explain what compensation you may be entitled to. Call 718-329-9500 to set up an appointment with Mr. Lutzky.

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