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Attorneys Albert Cohen and Charles Haviv

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You Can Trust

Back Injuries After a Queens Auto Accident: What is a Serious Injury?

On Behalf of | May 26, 2020 | Car Accidents, Injuries, Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Understanding New York’s Serious Injury Threshold for Back Injuries After a Queens Auto Accident

Back Injuries After a Queens Auto Accident

One of the most common injuries after a motor vehicle accident is a back injury.  This is because the back is in a vulnerable position and susceptible to personal injury in head on, t-bone, or rear end collisions.  This is particularly true in trucking accidents with large 18 wheelers that have significant power and momentum in a collision.  Although a back injury can be debilitating, disabling, and extremely painful, some back injuries cannot be compensated outside of an insurance claim.  This means that victims who suffer a back injury in New York may not be able to commence a legal action.  This is because New York is a “no fault” state and has a “serious injury” threshold in order to commence an action outside of no fault insurance.  

This can be a confusing standard—even for lawyers and judges.  This is usually hotly contested in auto accident litigation and there is an abundance of caselaw on this area of law, especially for back injuries.  Our experienced personal injury lawyers at COHEN & COHEN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS, P.C. explain New York’s serious injury threshold for back injuries after a Queens auto accident and what victims needs to know.  But if you have been injured in any type of motor vehicle accident in NYC, Queens, Long Island, or anywhere else in New York, always ask for a FREE case evaluation from our legal team rather than trying to decide for yourself if you have a claim.  There is no risk to get our lawyers to help you today.

What is No-Fault Insurance?

No-fault insurance is the rule in a minority of states in the United States.  As the name implies, it requires insurance companies to pay medical bills and a percentage of lost wages after a motor vehicle accident no matter who is at fault.  The purpose of this law is to get victims immediate compensation for the immediate losses they have sustained in the form of medical bills and lost wages.  

Only after paying out the claims without assessing fault, and insurance company can then investigate a claim (after paying out all necessary amounts) and then identify who was at fault and recover compensation (called indemnification).  This allows an insurance company that paid out no fault benefits to recover compensation if its insured was not at fault.  This is a fair and just result for them.

What is the “Serious Injury” Threshold?

Generally, a victim of an auto accident cannot commence a lawsuit to recover for personal injuries, lost wages, lost future earnings, medical bills, and other damages unless they have suffered a “serious injury.”  This rule is to prevent mild or even moderate injuries from clogging up the justice system, while also placing the onus of paying out claims to insurance companies.

New York’s Insurance Law defines a serious injury under section 5102 as one of the following injuries:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement 
  • Fracture(s) or broken bone
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss of the use of a body organ, member, function or system
  • Permanent consequential limitation of the use of a body organ or member
  • Significant limitation of the use of a body function or system, or
  • A medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured party from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety (90) days during the one hundred and eight days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.

There are no other classifications to this rule.  An injury must be objectively proven to fit into one of these categories.  This means that subjective complaints of pain that cannot be objectively proven may not fit within this standard.

Are Back Injuries Classified as Serious Injuries?

Yes, back injuries can be classified as a serious injury in certain instances.  But back injuries are usually subject to a “serious injury” motion which is when a defense lawyer is trying to get the case dismissed under the Insurance Law.  This is because a back injury is typically a “soft tissue” injury, which means that objective evidence is not always possible.  This makes it difficult for a victim to establish.

But there are ways to prove back injuries.  Generally, the last four categories are the most likely to result in a finding that a back injury is a serious injury.  Also, if there is a fracture of the back or a vertebra, it is also likely that there will be a serious injury.  Here are some of the common explains of a back injury which results in a serious injury:

  • Spinal fusions
  • Fractures of the vertebrae or just one vertebra, commonly a compression fracture
  • Discectomies requiring artificial spacers
  • Victims who are hurt for more than 90 days out of the first 180 days after an accident, for example those who have doctor notes excusing them from work for more than 3 months out of the first 6 months or victims who are bedridden, hospitalized, or in a wheelchair for that time period
  • Victims who have a decreased range of motion by 20% or more generally are considered to have a significant limitation 
  • Permanent damage to the discs or spinal cord, including paralysis
  • Permanent restrictions on range of motion or lifting, carrying, or pulling/pushing, and
  • Many other types of back injuries that our Queens auto accident lawyer should review with you.

Here are some examples of back injuries which do not always constitute a serious injury:

  • Back strains
  • Backaches
  • Back sprains
  • Back muscle aches that go away with over-the-counter pain medication
  • Small cuts
  • Slipped discs that resolve by themselves
  • Sciatic pain that was present before an accident and is still present and the same as before
  • Range of motion restrictions that are 5% or less, or
  • Other mild injuries.

Unsure if You Have a Serious Injury Under New York Law for a Back Injury?  Ask Us Today to Evaluate!

Here at COHEN & COHEN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS, P.C. , our Queens serious injury lawyers help protect the rights of victims and their families who have been wrongfully injured or wrongfully killed due to the reckless, careless, or negligent conduct of another person, business, or government entity.  We accept cases on a contingency fee agreement meaning that we only get paid a percentage of what we recover for you, and only after you get paid.  This means there is no upfront financial risk to have our law firm begin to represent you today.  Contact us today by dialing 800-247-8164 for a FREE case evaluation or use our convenient and easy-to-use contact us box available here to get started.

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