Posted on Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 at 3:08 pm
Chapter 51 of New York State’s Insurance Law, otherwise referred to as the ‘NYS No Fault Insurance Law,’ limits the ability of a motor vehicle accident victim to bring a lawsuit for injuries. If the victim is not ‘seriously injured’ as defined under the law, then the victim will be limited to the benefits provided under New York State No-Fault; $50,000 aggregated for medical expenses and lost wages. The intent of the law is to alleviate the strain on the court system by disallowing minor motor vehicle disputes from seeing the inside of a courtroom. The flip-side for the victim is that regardless of fault, an automobile insurance company pays the benefits for medical benefits and a portion of lost wages. The threshold for determining what constitutes a ‘serious injury’ in New York State is fairly simple. The victim must meet one of eight of the following criteria in order to pursue a claim for personal injuries in the NYS Courts:
- Personal injury which results in death;
- Dismemberment or significant disfigurement;
- 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.
Sections 1 through 4 are clearly defined; however 5 through 8 are open for interpretation and are constantly and intensely litigated by both plaintiffs and defendants alike. Defining these criteria to determine whether the client meets the serious injury threshold is continuously defined by motion practice, trials, and appeals.
We get phone calls all the time from people with injuries where an attorney has told them they do not have a case, or they do not have a valuable case due to the threshold law. On countless occasions, people have come to us with what looks like a threshold case and later on as their injuries fail to heal, and the case later has values of hundreds of thousands of dollars or even over a million dollars. Patience is the key here! Many lawyers often look to settle these cases early or outright reject them. At Hach & Rose, LLP, we understand that many of these cases take time to understand the full injury picture. Your personal injury case should be treated like a valuable asset, and a poorly timed decision can make an enormous impact on the ultimate result.