When a debtor files for bankruptcy the debtor is permitted to exempt certain assets from the reach of creditors and a bankruptcy trustee. Personal injury awards can be exempted in whole or part. In New York a debtor has the choice of selecting either a federal or state exemption scheme. The debtor must select one or the other. There is no picking and choosing between the specifics of the two (e.g. a debtor cannot elect the homestead exemption of New York law while also applying the wildcard exemption of Federal law). Therefore, an analysis by a qualified bankruptcy attorney needs to be performed to ascertain which scheme best suits the debtor circumstances.
As of the writing of this article (Jan 2018) the federal personal injury exemption is $23,675. That exemption can potentially be enhanced by a supplemental wild card exemption of up to as much as an additional $13,100 for a total exemption of $36,775. The New York personal injury exemption is $8,275.