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New York’s “Serious Injury” Threshold: Loss or Limitation to Bodily Organ or Function

Kidneys pain

As we’ve previously discussed, New York has a no-fault insurance scheme for car accidents. Injured accident victims must rely on their no-fault insurance to recover medical bills and other costs associated with car crash injuries, unless they have sustained a “serious injury.” New York law considers it a “serious injury” if an accident victim suffers a permanent loss of a body organ or function–such as if an accident causes them to go blind. However, even a “significant” or “permanent consequential” limitation of a body organ, function, or system may qualify as a “serious injury” sufficient to get outside the no-fault insurance system. See below to learn what types of organ damage or body function limitations will qualify as a serious injury under New York’s insurance law. If you’ve suffered the loss of an organ or are facing severe limitations performing a normal bodily function due to an accident in Goshen, the Hudson Valley, or New York City, reach out to a seasoned New York personal injury lawyer for help.

Complete Loss of a Bodily Function or Organ

Injured accident victims can sue a negligent defendant directly if they suffer permanent loss of a bodily organ, member, function, or system. This category requires that there be complete and total loss of use of a body function or system. The area can be focused and specific, such as permanent muscle damage to a victim’s eye. It must be complete, however. Moderate loss of use of the spine, for example, would not satisfy this category.

Permanent Consequential Limitation of Use of a Body Organ or Member

Accident victims can claim serious injury if they suffered permanent, consequential limitation of a body organ or member, even without there being a complete and total loss of function. The injury must have caused a permanent limitation, however, rather than a temporary loss of function. Additionally, the limitation must be significant; minor limitations in mobility or functionality will not suffice.

For example, a plaintiff who suffers damage to their hip such that they suffer severe pain whenever they walk would likely have a claim for “permanent consequential limitation.” A plaintiff who suffers damage to the neck but only experiences occasional pain flare-ups depending on the weather might not have a “permanent consequential limitation” claim.

Significant Limitation of Use of a Body Function or System

Unlike the previous two categories, “significant limitation of use” of a body function or system does not require that the damage be total or permanent. A temporary limitation on the use of a body function may qualify, so long as it is sufficiently serious. For example, near-total loss of hearing for several years after an accident would qualify as a “significant limitation” even though the victim is expected to recover eventually, and even though the hearing loss is not total. A minimal amount of impairment for a short period of time, such as a 10% spinal limitation for a few months, might or might not qualify. Likewise, occasional bursts of pain when using a limb might not qualify as a significant limitation.

Although New York insurance law has separate categories for “significant limitation of use” and “permanent consequential limitation of use,” in practice, they commonly overlap. Different courts may look at nearly identical injuries and decide differently on whether it qualifies as a significant limitation of a body organ or a permanent consequential limitation of a body system. New York courts are much more concerned with whether there was a serious injury at all than being precise as to the category under which the injury falls. A savvy car accident lawyer will work to ensure that your injury claim covers all applicable bases, giving you the strongest case for maximum recovery.

If You’ve Suffered Serious Damage to an Organ or Bodily Function, Dupée & Monroe is Here to Help

If you need help getting medical treatment and compensation for the harm you suffered after a serious crash, or if you are pursuing another negligence-based claim in New York, contact the seasoned and trial-ready Goshen personal injury lawyers Dupée & Monroe for a free consultation at 845-294-8900.

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