If you were in an automobile accident and you were paralyzed as a result, you would probably have no problem talking to a personal injury lawyer about recovering expenses to help you manage your long-term care. But what if you broke your arm? Or suffered a case of whiplash? Or simply twisted a few muscles in your back? Do these also qualify as “serious” injuries?
The Serious Injury Threshold
If a driver is in a car accident and he lives in a “no-fault” state like New York, his own insurance company is responsible for covering medical expenses, up to a certain limit. The state has an established a “serious injury” threshold, however, that allows some victims to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver, should they meet that threshold.
Drivers can use this sort of threshold in other states, as well, that don’t have no-fault insurance laws, to determine whether they may want to file a car accident lawsuit.
What Qualifies as a Serious Injury?
Laws in no-fault states give us guidelines as to what may qualify as a serious injury, and what may hold up in court as the type of injury that requires additional compensation. Some of these are clear-cut, but others are more open to legal interpretation.
- Death—if a victim is killed in an accident, that victim’s family has every reason to pursue additional compensation in a car accident lawsuit.
- Dismemberment—should the victim lose a limb or another body part in the accident.
- Significant disfigurement—this may include disfigurement caused by serious burns or lacerations, as well as significant scarring.
- Fractures and broken bones.
- Loss of a fetus.
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system—this may include the total loss of the use of an arm, for instance, or an eye, or the inability to talk after the accident.
- Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or system—similar to the one above, this could include things like no longer being able to use one’s hand to do one’s work, or not being able to stand for long periods of time because of a back injury.
- Injury that prevents the person from performing normal daily activities—this may be a non-permanent injury, but if it hinders the person’s ability to work or perform normal activities for at least 90 days following the accident, it may qualify as a “serious” injury.
Laws Up to Interpretation
Many of these areas of serious injury are interpreted differently depending on the case and the state in which it occurs. A permanent injury, for example, may include paralysis, but it may also include a broken finger that heals crookedly and impairs a person’s ability to do her job.
A disabling injury, as well, may include the loss of the use of one leg, but it may also include the inability to completely straighten your arm, or turn your head as far as you used to be able to because of a neck injury.
A personal injury lawyer can help you determine how you may establish serious injury in your case. Sometimes the categories are not clear-cut, so for the benefit of you and your family, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer examine your case before you decide how to move forward.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.