Serious Injury in New York State

Firstly, if you are looking at this article, it is likely that either you or someone you love has been hurt. We at Harding Mazzotti wish nothing but the best for you and your health. These injuries can completely upend people’s lives, destroying all plans for the future. Unfortunately, injuries happen every day, and to not overwhelm the legal system, New York State has created a Serious Injury Threshold, which outlines what injuries are considered “serious” and therefore entitles you to pursue compensation in cases of negligence.

New York State Insurance Law defines a serious injury as one of the following:

  • Death.
  • A Severe Disfigurement.
  • Dismemberment.
  • Loss of Fetus (Unborn Baby).
  • Fractured Bones.
  • Permanent Consequential Limitation of Use of a Body, Organ, or Member.
  • Permanent Loss of use of Body Organ, Member, Function, or System.
  • A Significant Limitation of Use of a Body Function.
  • 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 actives for not less than 90 days during the immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
  • You Sustained economic loss more than basic economic loss; typically, this means that you have experienced more than $50,000 in combined medical and lost wage payments.

Specific Injuries that could meet the Serious Injury Threshold

  • Spinal Cord Injuries
    • Damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal.
  • Dislocation
    • When one bone in a joint is moved from its original place.
  • Torn Ligaments
    • When a joint becomes overstretched or is twisted.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
    • Damage Caused to the Brain by sudden external physical assault.
  • Severe Burns
    • Tissue Damage caused by overexposure to heat.
  • Severe Cuts and Bruises
    • Severe Cuts: Wounds that go through the skin and into the fat tissue.
    • Bruises: Bleeding into the skin from damaged blood vessels.
  • Harm to Internal Organs
    • When an internal organ’s structure or function becomes impaired.
  • Concussion with post-concussion syndrome
    • Symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury lasting longer than expected after an injury.
  • Joint Damage
    • Recurring pain in the joints of the body.
  • Disfiguring Scarring
    • A scar, burn, skin texture, missing body limb, or a differently shaped body part that affects that person’s appearance.

The Purpose of the Threshold

  • In personal injury law, the serious injury threshold holds significant importance, especially for individuals living in New York State. This threshold was established to help prevent frivolous lawsuits by requiring plaintiffs to meet specific criteria before being able to pursue a personal injury claim.
  • This filters out cases that involve minor injuries or accidents, ensuring that only serious cases are considered for compensation. This requirement saves time and resources for the court system and protects defendants from baseless claims that may damage their reputation and finances.
  • Because of this additional barrier to entry, it is crucial to consult with a personal injury lawyer who is well-versed in New York State laws. An experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate the severity of your injuries and determine whether they meet the serious injury threshold. They can guide you through the legal requirements and help you build a strong case.

What to do if you think you have suffered a “serious injury”?

Firstly, the most important thing is to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. If you are seriously injured and do not get treatment quickly, it can often lead to further complications. Additionally, if you are considering legal action seeking medical attention will ensure the information regarding your injury is accurate. After that, follow all medical instructions and attend all appointments. During this process, try to save all paperwork you receive, including:

  • Accident reports (including police reports and photographs)
  • Details about your injuries (including doctor visits and medical records)
  • Receipts for medical expenses (prescriptions, paid rides to work or the doctor, childcare)
  • Details about missed time at work or impact on your job duties.

Even when these things are done, mistakes can still happen, which is why working with an experienced personal injury law firm is essential. When working with an experienced injury lawyer, they will know the most current case law on the topic and the thresholds for “serious injury.”

Biggest Mistakes in Personal Injury Cases

  • Gaps in Treatment Must be Explained.
    • In Pommells v. Perez (2005), the Court of Appeals stated that a gap in treatment puts into question the reliability of the medical expert’s conclusion about both the seriousness of the injuries and its causation.
  • Pre-Existing Injuries Must be Addressed.
    • In Pommells v Perez (2005), the Court of Appeals held that when the defendant moves for summary judgment and raises an issue of whether a pre-existing medical condition caused the alleged injury, the plaintiff must address the question of whether the symptoms and/or injuries were caused by the accident to survive summary judgment. This includes evidence from a doctor meaning the previous injuries must be addressed in the medical report.
  • Deficiencies Must be Quantified.
    • In Toure v. Avis Rent-A-Car System (2005), the Court of Appeals established that an expert’s conclusory findings, without support, will not suffice to establish a serious injury under the Insurance Law.
  • Medical Records Must be Certified.
    • In Zeigler v. Ramadhan (2004), an unswore, unsigned affidavit from the plaintiff’s physician was insufficient to bring the case to court.

How Harding Mazzotti Can Help

When working with Harding Mazzotti, these errors are avoided because of the personal attention we give to every case. Combined with our access to a network of experts and experience handling complex cases, there are many reasons to think big. As one of New York States’ biggest injury law firms, we have the resources for every size case, and we know that after a serious injury, people need a BIG win.