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What Constitutes a Serious Injury in a New York Car Accident Case?


Car accident injuries can range from soft tissue injuries to permanent disability — or even fatality in severe cases. But no matter how painful your injuries may be, it’s essential to understand that New York has a “serious injury” threshold that must be met to recover your damages in a lawsuit. Even if the other party’s negligence is clear, the specific criteria for a serious injury must still be satisfied to secure compensation beyond the benefits provided through the no-fault system.  

What is New York’s Serious Injury Threshold?

The legal definition of a “serious injury” is set forth by New York Insurance Law § 5102(d). If an injury claim fails to meet the requirements in the statute, the entire lawsuit may be dismissed. In order to bring a personal injury action, a plaintiff must prove that they have incurred more than $50,000 in basic economic losses or suffered one of the following injuries:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • 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 part
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system

Under the statute, a serious injury can also include medically determined non-permanent injuries and impairments if they prevented the victim from performing their usual daily activities for 90 or more days in the first 180 days following the accident. Also referred to as the “90/180 Day Rule,” the most common way an accident victim can demonstrate they qualify under this category is by showing they could not work or perform their normal tasks and chores.

Proving a Serious Injury

Several of the injuries that qualify under the statute are straightforward and clear-cut. However, the injuries involving “permanent loss of use,” “consequential limitation,” and “significant limitation” must typically be established with extensive medical documentation. Even soft tissue injuries may qualify under the “serious injury” threshold if they satisfy one of these categories.

A plaintiff must generally demonstrate the extent of their injuries with evidence of objective testing such as MRIs, EMG-NCVs, and range of motion testing. A conclusory statement made by a physician is not sufficient to establish a serious injury — they must identify the methods by which they came to their conclusion and specify the details of their findings. In addition, any gaps in treatment or pre-existing injuries can complicate an injury claim and will need to be addressed to avoid summary judgment.

Compensation for Serious Injuries in New York

If you sustained what New York Insurance Law specifies is a “serious injury,” you may be eligible to recover your economic and non-economic damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party. Specifically, you may be entitled to recover your unreimbursed medical expenses, lost wages, and out-of-pocket costs incurred in connection with the accident. You may also be awarded monetary compensation for your pain and suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life you experienced due to your accident-related injuries.  

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

Car accident injuries can be life-changing. It’s vital to have a personal injury attorney by your side who knows how to protect your rights and will work to ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has more than three decades of experience advocating for the rights of car accident victims and fighting for the justice they deserve.

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. Contact us today for a consultation.