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What is a Serious Injury Under the Motor Vehicle Laws?

Tags: injury

If you have been in a car accident and you would like to sue the other driver for compensation, you have to prove to the courts that you have met the threshold for a "serious injury" under New York law.  Under the Insurance Law, a person must satisfy one of the following eight definitions before pursuing a lawsuit; otherwise non-economic loss is not recoverable, meaning damages for pain and suffering and so on cannot be recovered by a plaintiff. The Insurance Law § 5102(d) provides:

“Serious injury” means
1) a personal injury which results in death;
2) dismemberment or significant disfigurement;
3) a fracture;
4) loss of a fetus;
5) permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system;
6) permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member;
7) significant limitation of use of a body function or system, or
8) a medically determined injury or impairment of a non permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less that ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.   
The first four definitions provided are very precise and easy to determine. The latter three definitoins are more difficult to determine, and many serious injury threshold inquiries are centered on whether a person meets one or more of them.
                               
Dating back to 1982, the court in Licari v. Elliot determined that since New York uses a no-fault system, recovery can only result for serious injuries under the above statute. According to Ortiz v. Ash, once a serious injury is shown, the plaintiff must prove that the injuries she sustained are causally related to the accident claimed. Only after these requirements have been satisfied, a plaintiff can sue for non-economic loss, such as pain and suffering.

In a more recent decision, the Court of Appeals set straight the body of law governing requirements of proof in “serious injury” threshold cases. The court held that 1) there is no requirement that a plaintiff show contemporaneous range of motion testing following an accident and injury, and 2) where doctors disagree on issues of causation, such issues must be left for the jury to determine.         

In essence, the court rationalized that potential plaintiffs seeking recovery for injuries should not be penalized because their treating doctor did not perform a range of motion test, but rather focused on treating the injuries.

The court also held that a treating physician’s statement that the plaintiff had no prior similar injuries or symptoms and that the injuries were causally related to the accident was sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact on the issue of causation, meaning that the case can move on to hear the plaintiff’s claim.

The courts constantly add to their "case law" with each ruling, thus creating a precedent that they can follow. Many of the definitions regarding serious injuries found in the Insurance Law statute are further defined in the court’s case law. It is essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who can properly represent you in these matters.

At Foley Griffin, LLP, our attorneys represent clients in a multitude of areas of law, including car accidents. If you require assistance with a legal issue, please contact our office located in 666 Old Country Road, Suite 305, Garden City, NY11530, or call us toll free at 1-800-991-2773.



This post first appeared on Long Island Personal Injury Trial Lawyers, please read the originial post: here

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What is a Serious Injury Under the Motor Vehicle Laws?

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