In order to receive money damages for injuries sustained in a automobile accident you must have sustained a “Serious Injury”. However, to the dismay of many clients, Serious Injury is not a lay term, but is a specific legal term that carries specific legal meaning.
In order to receive a monetary award for injuries sustained \ pain & suffering beyond the No-Fault limits of a insurance policy, one must suffer a Serious Injury. It is NOT unreasonable for a lay person who has been injured to feel they have suffered a Serious Injury. It is NOT unreasonable for a lay person to feel, “I'm really sore and really banged up, I ache all over so I definitely have a serious injury”. However, the law defines “Serious Injury” in a way that doesn't always match up with the definition of a injured lay person
Serious Injury is defined in Section 5102 of NY Insurance Law as a personal injury that results in:
- Significant Disfigurement
- Loss of a Fetus
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ or 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
- A non permanent injury which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person's usual & customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment
So now it all makes sense, huh ? Of course NOT ! Clearly some of these terms are vague and ambiguous. How much disfigurement is needed for it to be “significant” ? What is a “consequential” limitation ?? Obviously there are certain elements of the serious Injury Law which are clear and simple such as Fracture, or Loss of Fetus. These are clear and unambiguous. However, many of the other legal elements needed to prove Serious Injury are vague & unclear.
Due to the ambiguity in the law, often times it is left to a jury to decide exactly what is a serious injury. If your injury is not clear and obvious like a fracture, than you must be able to prove your injury with other medical documentation such as:
- MRI Exam
- Cat Scan
- Physician reports & opinion
- EMG Testing
- Range of Motion (ROM) testing
- Other tests as your treating physician sees fit.
What a lay person feels is a Serious Injury, may not be so under the law. What qualifies as a Serious Injury can often appear confusing & ambiguous and even unfair. If you feel you have suffered a serious Injury as the result of a auto accident, call the Law Office of Frederick Altschuler and we will guide you through the process and insure your rights are protected.