This question is not as simple as it may sound.   Under most circumstances, if you suffer an injury and another person shares some or all of the blame, then a lawsuit against that individual seems clearly your right.   It does not necessarily work that way in motor vehicle accidents in New York State.

New York State has made a tradeoff.   Regardless of whether or not and individual is responsible for a motor vehicle accident that occurred, that individual will be entitled to payments for his/her medical costs and lost  wages, and some other expenses as well.  For  passengers in vehicles, these expenses will be paid  by the insurance company of the vehicle in which you find  yourself.   Since “fault” is not an issue, these payments are known as “NO FAULT” coverage.

However, in return for this guaranteed payment for medical expenses and lost wages, the traveling public had its right to sue curtailed !   A person may only sue if the injury he/she sustained is a “SERIOUS INJURY”.

What is a “SERIOUS INJURY”?   That is an injury that is defined by the statute.  It can be specific: any fracture (broken bone) meets the requirement–or as lawyers say, it meets the “threshold” permitting a person to sue.  More troubling, the acceptable injury may be much  more vague (see below).   What is clear is that injuries that are passing in nature, and do not involve significant permanent damage, will probably not meet the “threshold”.

Here’s the problem. If a person sues regardless of the seriousness of his/her injury, and the party being sued asks the court to throw out the case  because the injury is not serious enough, the court has the right to “dismiss” the case if the judge decides the “threshold” is not met..   And this can happen a year or two after the case has begun, at which point a significant amount of time, effort and expense has been invested in that case, which then is all lost !

Bringing a lawsuit always requires an car accident attorney well versed in the field of law involved.   This is certainly true in a case involving such a potentially confusing area as MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS.

Statutory Definition of “Serious Injury”

“Serious injury” means a personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a 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 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.

Posted by New York City Injury Lawyer Steve Orlow