Serious injury can vary from soft tissue injuries to permanent disability. In extreme instances, it can even lead to death. In New York State, the threshold for serious injury must be met if you are expecting to recover damages in a lawsuit, citing pain and suffering. This threshold is the same no matter what fault the other party may have had. Moreover, you must meet it to receive compensation beyond basic no-fault benefits.
DEFINING “SERIOUS INJURY” IN NEW YORK CAR ACCIDENTS
In New York, the courts have been consistent in holding that a subjective complaint of pain is not a serious injury. The majority of cases involving serious injury will require that you objectively verify the claim through diagnostic testing. There are several categories of serious injuries in a car accident. Some are simple and easily defined, while others are more complex. For example, some injuries, such as whiplash, can be considered serious, even though they are not life-threatening.
Since whiplash can lead to permanent limitations and limit a person's ability to earn a living, it can fall under the “serious injury” definition in certain instances. It is critical to understand what constitutes a serious injury under the state's law. Injuries that prevent a person from working or participating in daily activities could be considered "serious" injuries.
PROVING A CASE FOR A SERIOUS INJURY
The proof of a serious injury in a New York car accident case isn't a set formula. Physicians must provide their opinions in the proper format stating that the injuries meet the definition of a “serious injury” under Section 5102(d) of the New York Insurance Law. In addition to examining the injury, physicians must also provide contemporaneous or quantitative evidence to support their conclusions. Each case can be very different, but it will all depend on the facts.
While the process of proving a case for a serious injury in a New York car accident can take time, one of the most important ways to make it more palatable to juries is to gather all medical records that document the injury. Keep in mind that attorneys for the defendants will attempt to dismantle the argument that a serious injury was caused by the accident. Thus, it's important to collect as many medical records as you can that document the recovery and treatment that was related to the accident.
NEW YORK SERIOUS INJURY THRESHOLD EXCEPTIONS
The serious injury threshold in New York applies to any type of car accident. Unless you have insurance, you cannot sue the at-fault party for damages. This rule applies to both individuals and businesses. The exceptions apply to individuals who are covered by a car insurance policy. It also applies to people whose spouse or children were involved in the accident. In order to successfully sue for damages in New York State, you must present objective medical evidence to prove the extent of your injuries.
In order to meet the serious injury threshold, you must show that you were a victim of the car accident. There are nine categories of injuries that can be considered a serious injury, including:
- loss of a fetus
- significant disfigurement
- permanent loss of use of an organ, member, system, or function
- permanent consequential limitation of use of an organ or member
- significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- non permanent impairment for 90 days during the first 180 days succeeding the accident
New York Law considers these injuries to be serious enough to qualify you for compensation. However, falling into these categories is not easy. The serious injury threshold is designed to favor negligent drivers and their insurance companies. It is in your best interest to speak to an experienced New York personal injury attorney to determine whether your injuries will be accepted as “serious injury”.
The 90/180 Day Rule in New York
New York no-fault insurance may not seem like enough money to cover your costs if you are hurt in a car accident. However, you may be able to sue the at-fault motorist if your injury is deemed a "serious injury." One method for fulfilling the legal standards for a "serious injury" is the 90/180-day rule.
A person is deemed handicapped if, for at least 90 of the first 180 days after the accident, they are unable to do all of their regular daily activities. Demonstrating this can prove to be difficult. You must be able to convince a judge or jury that your disability has prohibited you from engaging in "substantially all" of your regular activities in order for your 90/180 claim to be successful. This indicates that your life has been drastically changed and disrupted due to your injury.
If a doctor recommends that you not work for the next several months, "serious injury" is likely justified by your condition. But, if you need assistance with a few tasks throughout the course of the day, this isn't likely to meet the "substantially all" criteria.
WHY DO YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY?
If you have been in a car accident in New York, hiring an attorney to represent you can be extremely beneficial. In the state of New York, there are New York “no-fault” insurance rules, such as:
- A cap on compensation and coverage;
- Specific amount of time to file;
- And, only specific persons are protected.
There are expectations that depend on the situation, but hiring a lawyer right away will help you protect your rights and maximize the compensation you may potentially receive for an injury sustained during a New York car accident. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will be familiar with laws governing car accident injuries, statutes of limitations, compensation limits and more.
For a free consultation, get in touch with Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law. We can turn around your situation, thanks to our demonstrated track record of success and dedication to our clients. We have offices throughout New York City and New York State, as well as the Tri-State.