Understanding the Serious Injury Threshold: Explained by Our Car Accident Lawyer in Bronx, New York
Individuals hurt in a car accident face many physical, emotional, and financial repercussions. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why New York law requires all motorists to carry certain amounts of automobile insurance. After all, over 2.7 million people in the United States will suffer personal injuries in a vehicle crash. In New York City alone over 44,000 people will suffer personal injuries in a motor vehicle crash. Although auto insurance may cover most of a victim’s damages, unfortunately sometimes a policy is not enough to fairly compensate a victim’s losses. Many car crash victims are surprised to learn that they cannot commence a lawsuit unless they have satisfied the “serious injury” threshold in New York City and the Bronx.
Here at Stern Law Firm, we know that every personal injury is a “serious injury” for you and your family. Unexpected medical bills coupled with lost wages can have a significant and profound impact on a family, especially for hardworking families with children. This is why our car accident attorneys in Bronx offer FREE consultations with experienced attorneys and case evaluations to advise victims and their families of the law and what their legal rights may be. Learn how we can help you and your family after a motor vehicle crash by dialing (516) 294- 2664.
Can I File a Lawsuit After Every Car Accident Case?
The answer to this question is a complicated “sometimes.” That is because New York law has different causes of actions (or claims) that you can make.
Yes, you can file a lawsuit to recover property damage to your vehicle, personal property, or if your real property was damaged in a car accident case. Usually insurance will cover these expenses, but not always.
Yes, but you can only file a lawsuit in any personal injury car accident only where it resulted in serious injury as defined by the law. Minor injuries which resolve quickly and heal 100% generally do not quality as a serious injury. While there is no outright bar to filing a lawsuit when you have a minor injury, your case will likely be filtered out of the system with a dismissal motion for failure to reach the level of serious injury. To be entitled to a day in court or achieve a substantial settlement, the victim must satisfy the “serious injury threshold.” This is an important pre-condition that you must satisfy in order to be entitled to compensation for pain & suffering.
What is the Serious Injury Threshold in Bronx and New York City?
The serious injury threshold is a creature of New York’s auto insurance system. States have different auto insurance systems, being either a “fault”
or “no fault” state. New York is a “no fault” state. This means that, no matter who caused the car accident, a victim’s medical bills and lost wages are paid
for by their own insurer regardless of fault goes to his or her own insurance carrier for compensation. The carrier is supposed to quickly pay out a claim, especially for medical bills, without having to assess fault for an accident. This allows victims and their families to quickly recover compensation, rather
than having to fight with an insurance carrier right after an accident while also suffering personal injuries.
If a victim’s injuries exceed the insurance policy, he or she may seek compensation through a lawsuit. In order to maintain a lawsuit, a victim must have satisfied the “serious injury” threshold of the insurance law. This section of law allows a victim to go after an at fault party for damages in certain instances.
What Constitutes a "Serious Injury" That Allows Me to Sue in New York?
In order for a victim of a New York car accident to commence and maintain a lawsuit against a defendant, he or she must satisfy the “serious injury”
threshold of New York Insurance Law section 5102 (d) which provides the following:
“Serious injury” means a personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or 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 than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
As you can immediately tell from this section of law, it is very complicated. This is a section of law that generates a lot of hotly contested litigation in court. This is why victims of a car accident in Bronx, and the other boros of the City of New York need to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to represent them in any car accident case.
Understanding the Requirements of the "Serious Injury" Threshold in Bronx, New York
The different categories of serious injury are very complicated. The serious injury categories and how to prove them include the following:
– Death – when a person dies in or as the result of a crash, it qualifies as a serious injury
– Dismemberment – an amputation or loss of a limb generally constitutes dismemberment, but loss of other parts of the body (like an ear or nose) may constitute dismemberment in certain instances
– Significant disfigurement – this one is usually hotly contested because what is “significant” carries both a subjective (your feelings) and objective (reasonably feelings of others) element. Generally, individuals who suffer extensive scarring or disfigurement like burn injuries, large areas of scarring, and other visible deformities will qualify as a significant disfigurement.
– Fracture – a fracture is a broken bone, and any fracture (even in your pinky toe) will satisfy this category
– Loss of a fetus – if you lose your pregnancy in a motor vehicle crash, you will likely be entitled to compensation
– Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system – this category requires a permanent, complete and total loss, such as loss of an organ (losing a kidney), blindness, or amputation of a limb
– Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member – this category requires a permanent and “consequential” limitation (need not be a total loss, but some significant decrease or limitation on function, such as a brain injury, spinal fusion, or permanent range of motion restriction to a limb (i.e. shoulder rotator cuff/SLAP tear that never heals back to normal and severely limits movement)
– Significant loss of use of a body function or system – where an injury is significant but not permanent, that satisfies this category, such as an injury that takes months or years to heal due to numerous surgeries, where a victim may be in a coma for several months, or where a victim’s physical or emotional injuries may take years of therapy to heal
– 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 than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment – this category is often called the “catch all” category, although it really should not be viewed that way. It requires a victim to have been impaired by temporary injuries for a period of 90 days (3 months) out of the first 180 days (6 months) following a car accident. This includes more than just being out of work during this time (although that is a strong indicator), but also being unable to do basic, daily activities that you could do before the accident. This includes everything from household chores such as vacuuming or cooking, to showering or walking the dog. A victim to a car accident may claim any or all of these categories as long as there is a good faith argument to them (i.e., you cannot say you lost a fetus when you are not pregnant). Many times, a victim will satisfy multiple categories of a serious injury, usually the 90 out of 180-day rule, and other consequential limitations.
Do You Think You Have Satisfied the Serious Injury Threshold in Bronx, New York After a Car Crash? Call Our Law Firm Today
Our Bronx car accident lawyers at Stern Law Firm can help victims and their families recover the compensation that they deserve after a car accident in New York City. Whether you believe you have satisfied the serious injury threshold or not, call for a FREE consultation to learn what your legal rights may be under New York law.
Unlike some law firms, our compassionate lawyers pay the upfront costs and disbursements of litigation, including court fees, expert expenses, medical record bills, and other costs, which are only reimbursed after we recover compensation for you. The same is true of our lawyer’s fees, which are only paid after we have recovered you compensation in a settlement, verdict, or other award. This means there is no upfront financial cost or financial risk to working with our law firm.
Learn more how we can help prove your serious injury after a car accident in Bronx, New York by dialing (516) 294-2664 or sending us a message through our contact us box available here.