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The $459 million in judgments and settlements stemming from claims against the city of New York in fiscal year 2000 was the highest amount ever recorded for claims in a single year, according to a report released last year by the New York City Office of the Comptroller. The total represents a 10.5 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, and includes $406 million in personal injury claims, according to the comptroller’s office Annual Claims Report. Personal injury claims overall increased 11.5 percent, from $364 million in fiscal year 1999. (See chart: Average Verdicts in Personal Injury Cases, 1997-2001.) In contrast to the cost of verdicts and settlements, the number of claims filed overall has decreased since fiscal year 1996, from 31,119 to 26,336. (See chart: Number of Claims Filed Against City of New York by Claim Type, Fiscal Years 1991-2000.) The most costly personal injury claims came in the medical malpractice area, the report said. Although those claims make up just 3.3 percent of personal injury claims filed, they accounted for $150.6 million of the total. That represents a jump from the previous year’s $118.2 million. The second-highest amount paid out in personal injury awards in fiscal 2000 came in sidewalk claims, which cost more than $58 million, followed by auto accident claims, which came in at $46.8 million, according to the report. While the number of claims filed decreased overall, motor vehicle accident claims increased significantly, from 1,558 in fiscal year 1999 to 1,768 in fiscal 2000. The number of police action claims declined by 25 percent in fiscal year 2000, from 2,386 filed in fiscal 1999 to 1,781 in fiscal 2000. The cost of police action claims decreased 9.6 percent over the last two fiscal years. The cost of verdicts and settlements at $1 million or more also appears to be on the rise. In fiscal year 2000, the city incurred liability of $174.4 million for 77 settlements and judgments of $1 million or more, the report said. Of these 77 cases, 68 were settled and nine were resolved by jury verdicts, according to the comptroller’s report. Medical malpractice claims accounted for 43 of the 77 cases costing $1 million or more. Twenty-three of those 43 cases involved obstetrical care resulting in infant injuries such as brain damage, mental retardation and/or other developmental problems, according to the report. The $459 million total for fiscal year 2000 also includes $9.6 million for property damage claims and $43.1 million for contract claims. Property damage claims increased by 50 percent over fiscal 1999, due in large part to a group of major water damage claims, according to the comptroller’s report. Contract claims decreased in fiscal year 2000, from $47 million in fiscal 1999 to $43 million. Such claims generally involve disputes with city contractors, wage and salary disputes, and sidewalk assessments, the report said. In contrast to the cost of verdicts and settlements, the number of claims filed overall has decreased since fiscal year 1996, from 31,119 to 26,336. Related chart: Win/Loss Percentages for Personal Injury Cases, 1997-2001

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