Written by: Jesse Minc Portrait Jesse Minc
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Interest on Recoveries in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Cases

The statement “to the victor goes the spoils” is as true in New York personal injury and medical malpractice cases as it is in war.  If you are victorious in court, New York law may entitle you not only to the face value of the compensation that a jury awards, but to interest on that compensation until you are paid in full.  This article explains some of the basics of interest on jury awards under New York, and also discusses how the threat of accruing interest charges can be used by your New York personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer as a bargaining chip to fend off the threat of appeals or other challenges to your compensation by defendants after a jury renders its verdict.  It should be noted that interest does not, under New York law, typically accrue upon settlements, so those agreements are not discussed in this article.

N.Y. E.P.T.L Section 5-4.3(a): Pre-Verdict Interest in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Cases Alleging the Wrongful Death of the Plaintiff.  

If a loved one dies as a result of personal injuries or medical malpractice in New York, the family is entitled to recover interest upon any jury verdict award.  In these special cases, the interest begins accruing from the date of the plaintiff’s death, not just from the date of the verdict or other decision on liability as in personal injury and medical malpractice cases not involving wrongful death (discussed below).  If your case is tried to verdict and you are victorious in court, interest will automatically be added to any amounts that the jury awards you for wrongful death damages.  Especially in the case of protracted litigation that spans many years, the interest on any such award can be substantial and can add significantly to the compensation that you and your family ultimately receive.

Interest on personal injury and medical malpractice claims where a wrongful death results can be very helpful in the hands of a skilled trial lawyer as leverage to settle your case, whether before trial or even after a verdict is rendered.  Defendants will know pre-trial that, should your family be victorious at trial, they risk a very high interest payment in addition to the compensation awarded by the jury.  This allows your personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer to argue that your claims should be settled for more money; and, while not a guaranty of a higher settlement, interest is certainly on the defendants’ mind when negotiating a settlement of a wrongful death case.  Also, post-trial, interest upon the wrongful death damages can be used by a skillful lawyer to negotiate a settlement whereby the defendants give up the right to appeal your case, thus ensuring that you and your family receive the fair compensation you deserve for the loss of a loved one.

N.Y. C.P.L.R. Section 5002:  Interest On Your Personal Injury or Medical Malpractice Jury Verdict.  

The New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, has held that a plaintiff in a personal injury or medical malpractice case is entitled to interest from the date on which a court – whether a judge or a jury – decides that the defendants are responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.  If, for example, your lawyer successfully moves for summary judgment (asks that court to decide liability as a matter of law, without review by a jury), interest begins to accrue from the date that the decision in your favor is made.  Of course, if a jury returns its verdict in your favor, interest will accrue from the date of the jury’s verdict until payment is made or judgment is entered (see below).  As with pre-judgment interest on wrongful death personal injury and medical malpractice claims, a skilled attorney can use the threat of high interest payments to negotiate a post-verdict settlement which can cut off a defendant’s right to appeal a verdict, thus ensuring that you receive the compensation you deserve.

N.Y. C.P.L.R. Section 5003:  Interest On Your Personal Injury Judgment.  

If a jury verdict is rendered in your favor and the defendants do not pay immediately, your personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer will draft a document known as a “Judgment” to be signed by a judge and entered with the clerk of the court.  This document explains the jury’s verdict, and can be enforced through formal legal procedures.  It is different from a jury verdict because, in part, it includes a court order that the defendants are to pay you a certain amount of money, and allows you to go to court to enforce the jury’s verdict if the defendants do not pay up promptly.  Interest accrues in your favor from the date that the judgment is entered with the county clerk until full payment of both the principal amount of the verdict and all interest is received.  Again, skilled attorneys can use this type of interest as a bargaining chip with which to negotiate a final settlement and ensure that you get paid the compensation you deserve; however, as a practical matter, in most cases in which your attorney actually enters judgment against a defendant, the defendants are not inclined to pay you without fighting the case in an appeals court or welching on the debt in part or altogether.  In such cases, the judgment preserves your right to interest payments if you win on appeal, and allows for certain legal remedies to be used to force the defendant to pay up.

Interest Rates and Special Rules for Municipal Defendants.  

As a general rule, the New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules (the “CPLR”) provides that interest is payable at a rate of 9% on all of the types of interest discussed in this article.  However, under the CPLR and other laws, municipal defendants (for example, the City of New York and all of its agencies) enjoy special statutory protection limiting interest on all recoveries against them to 6%.

Conclusion. 

If you or a loved one has been injured, and you would like to discuss bringing a personal injury or medical malpractice case with our skilled and experienced team of top-tier attorneys, please call us at (718) 354-8000 or send us an email.  We will walk you through all of the key aspects of your claims, including issues pertaining to interest on your claims, so that you will have the best possible chance of obtaining fair compensation from those who have harmed you and your family.

Category: Medical Malpractice