What Counts as a Serious Injury in a Car Accident?

Death, dismemberment, disfigurement, or loss of a fetus– New York considers these injuries to be most severe. You are also considered seriously injured if you permanently lose or suffer significant limitation to the use of a body organ, system, or function– which prevents you from engaging in “customary daily activities” for at least 90 out of 180 days immediately following the accident.

Having your injury classified as serious matters greatly in how much compensation you are allowed to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, which is why you should contact a car accident lawyer in New York to review your case.

Why Does It Matter If My Car Accident Injuries Are Considered Serious?

In no-fault auto insurance states like New York, an injured person must meet the “serious injury” threshold to overcome insurance policy limitations. The maximum amount of money you can recover from your insurance policy is $50,000 (unless you purchased additional coverage).

New York’s no-fault system allows the recovery of medical bills (including physical therapy and psychiatric counseling) up to policy limits, lost earnings of up to $2,000 per month for up to three years, and up to $25 per day for up to one year on other accident-related expenses (such as child care, laundry service, lawn care/snow removal, maid service, or hot meal delivery if you are too hurt to care for your household).  

For a truly serious injury, this amount of money will be woefully inadequate in covering the cost of ongoing and future medical expenses. Meeting the serious injury threshold allows the injured party the right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault parties for damages they would otherwise obtain through their insurance policy. The sky is the limit in what you can obtain through litigation.

What Symptoms Indicate Serious Injury After A Car Accident?

Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether your injuries are severe. Certain symptoms can give rise to more specific impairment later on. In the days and weeks following a car accident, look out for:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes like anxiety or depression
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weakness in certain areas

Are You Seriously Injured?

The loss of a fetus, death, and dismemberment are readily apparent and not open to interpretation. It should be noted that dismemberment involves a total loss of a body part, not simply the loss of use. The other types of serious injuries have been open to interpretation from the courts over the years.

Did you sustain a fracture? Serious injury fractures include the knee, nose, leg, arm, foot, or a broken tooth. On the other hand, soft tissue injuries like a knee cartilage tear or deviated septum would not meet the threshold. 

Were you significantly disfigured? In Santos v. Taveras (2007), New York courts clarified a disfigurement as significant if “a reasonable person viewing the plaintiff’s body in its altered state would regard the condition as unattractive, objectionable, or as the object of pity or scorn.” This standard is applied more readily to women than to men. Noticeable scars that exceed two inches in length may constitute significant disfigurement.

Did you permanently lose the use of a body organ, member, function, or system? Substantial limitation is insufficient to qualify under this category. There must be total, permanent loss of use. So, for instance, permanent muscle damage around the lower lip can be compensated, but only moderate loss of use in the lumbar spine– though it affects mobility– cannot.

Do you have permanent consequential limitation on the use of a body organ or member? You will need proof of significant and permanent limitation, such as the inability to complete a full range of motion in the rotator cuff — neck pain when the weather changes would not qualify under this definition.

Do you suffer significant limitations of use? Significant limitations may include hearing loss lasting more than a year or carpal tunnel that causes difficulty driving. A 20% impairment in the shoulder would not qualify.

Did you have a non-permanent impairment for 90 out of 180 days after the accident? If you were unable to perform your job, household duties, or sleep without disturbance in at least 90 out of 180 days following the accident, your injury may be categorized “serious.”

Get A Free Consultation from a Car Accident Lawyer in New York

Douglas and London offer free consultations and contingency-based representation to car accident victims. Let us review your claim to compensation to ensure you receive the full value allowed by law.