Proving Serious Injury in New York Car Accident Lawsuits
New York automobile accident law is designed to meet two equally important goals. The first is to ensure that accident victims have the ability to be made whole. The second is to protect the legal system against costly and unnecessary litigation.
To that end, everyone injured in a New York motor vehicle accident is entitled to up to $50,000 in coverage for economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, under the state’s no-fault law. The coverage applies regardless of who was at fault for causing the accident.
The ability to sue an at-fault driver for non-economic damages is only available to car accident victims who have suffered serious injury. Unfortunately, fraudulent claims of serious injury have historically been a problem in New York.
As a result, honest accident victims often find themselves subject to undue scrutiny by defense attorneys and insurance company representatives who make unrealistic demands about the amount of evidence needed to prove serious injury.
Court Of Appeals Decision Provides Clarity
In a recent case, the New York Court of Appeals provided guidance on the type of evidence a plaintiff must provide in order to make a showing of serious injury.
The case involved accident victims who claimed that their injuries significantly limited their ability to function. As proof, they offered two medical examinations. The first, conducted soon after the accident, simply said that the victims exhibited decreased range of motion. The second, conducted several years after the accident, provided quantitative measurements of the victims’ physical limitations.
The defense challenged the evidence, arguing that accident victims ought to provide quantitative evidence of serious injury soon after the accident occurred.
The court disagreed. It recognized that after an accident, most victims are focused on getting better, not on providing proof for an eventual lawsuit. Accident victims shouldn’t be punished for initially seeking help from a doctor who provides good care but doesn’t have a background in providing evidence for New York motor vehicle accident attorneys to use at trial.
The court’s ruling is certainly good news for accident victims throughout the state. However, it is important to recognize that although the ruling acknowledges the reality of how accident victims seek treatment, it does not reduce their burden of proof.
If you have been injured in a car accident, don’t wait to seek help. Contact an experienced New York personal injury attorney who can help you prove your case.