How To Prove You Have Suffered From Permanent Injuries After A Car Accident
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, the extent and severity of your injuries matter, not just for obvious reasons but also because it may impact the compensation you can claim. When an injury is permanent, your economic and non-economic damages may be ongoing, and any settlement or judgment you receive must reflect that fact.
Proving an injury is permanent requires substantiating evidence. If you need to prove you have a permanent injury, you may need the knowledge, resources, and advocacy of an experienced Bronx car accident lawyer.
The Risk of New York City Car Accidents and Injuries
In a single recent month, the NYPD reported 9,183 traffic collisions in the metropolitan area. Brooklyn led the way with 2,913 crashes, followed by Queens with 2,637, the Bronx at 1,643, Manhattan with 1,530, and Staten Island with 460.
In these crashes, the following injuries occurred:
- 1,972 injured motorists
- 1,332 injured passengers
- 382 injured cyclists
- 740 injured pedestrians
Many of these injuries were severe, and 18 people sustained fatal injuries during the month due to traffic crashes.
Whether you hail a cab or are driving your own vehicle, the risks of car accidents are everywhere in NYC.
The top reasons the NYPD listed for car accident causes include:
- Driver inattention or distraction
- Following too closely
- Failure to yield the right-of-way
- Improper passing
- Passing too closely
- Disregarding a traffic control signal
Driver inattention was – by far – the most common cause of car accidents citywide. Even though New York has strict laws restricting cell phone use by drivers, many drivers ignore them and continue to put others at risk by driving while distracted. Distracted drivers can cause head-on collisions, sideswipes, rear-end crashes, and other types of accidents, all of which have the potential to result in permanent injuries to others.
In many states, when a distracted or otherwise negligent driver causes injuries, the victims seek compensation from the at-fault driver. However, in New York, insurance laws and procedures are more complicated than that. You always want the guidance of an NYC car accident lawyer if you need to pursue an injury insurance claim.
New York is a No-Fault State for Car Accidents
New York is a no-fault state. That means any person who registers a vehicle in the state must purchase personal injury protection insurance to cover themselves in the event of an accident. Such insurance requires a minimum of $50,000 coverage for injuries to the policy owner, others also named on the policy, and passengers in the owner’s vehicle who do not have personal injury protection, regardless of who was at fault.
This basic policy helps pay for reasonable and necessary medical costs, including hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, psychiatric services, rehabilitation, and long-term professional health services. In addition, the coverage provides for up to 80 percent of lost income or up to $2,000 a month for up to three years.
No-fault insurance is a requirement in New York to ensure faster compensation for people who have been injured in an accident, as well as to ease the pressure on overcrowded courts by eliminating most car accident litigation. However, under New York law, a person who suffered severe and permanent injuries in a car accident due to the negligence or recklessness of another party may pursue compensation for their damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
What Is a Permanent Injury?
A permanent injury is one that, as far as anyone can know, will never go away. A straightforward example of a permanent injury is a severed spinal cord. As of now, there is no cure, and the victim will suffer the consequences of their injury for life. Other injuries may not be as easily identifiable as permanent. Some victims with severe injuries achieve full recovery, even when recovery may be improbable.
Still, others may suffer injuries that seem less serious and yet will cause permanent pain or quality of life limitations. If you are wondering whether your injury meets the definition of serious and permanent, a New York car accident lawyer can help you make that determination.
Under New York law, all car accident-related personal injury claims must pass the serious injury threshold in order to file a lawsuit. That means the damages for such injuries must exceed the required $50,000 policy limits.
Additionally, by statutory definition, serious injuries include:
- Severe disfigurement;
- Fractured bones;
- Loss of a fetus;
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system;
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or
- A medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature that 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.
Common injuries that might be permanent include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injury (SCI)
- Third-degree burns
- Back injuries
Sometimes, even a soft tissue injury that does not seem all that serious will never properly heal, leaving a victim with ongoing limitations and movement restrictions for the rest of their lives.
Never assume that your injury is too minor to pursue a third-party claim. Instead, allow our NYC car accident lawyers to assess your situation and determine your legal options for seeking maximum compensation.
How Do You Prove that Your Injury is Permanent?
If you are in an accident, it is important that you receive treatment for your injuries right away. You may use your personal injury protection insurance for your initial care. Doing so may help ensure you have the best chance for recovery and will also provide the documentation necessary to prove your injury is permanent. If you need to file a personal injury lawsuit based on your injuries, you must do so within three years of the date of your accident, with some important exceptions. For example, the statute of limitations is shorter if you have to file a lawsuit against a government entity.
Proving that your injuries are permanent requires expert opinions from medical professionals who specialize in treating injuries such as yours. In some cases, the doctors who treated your injuries, ordered your tests, and documented your medical records may qualify as experts. However, in other cases, other professionals and experts may have to examine you and give their opinions to the court for your claims.
You should ask the doctors who treated you to provide their written professional opinion if they believe your injuries are permanent and qualify under New York’s insurance laws. These experts can also provide their opinions to the court. An experienced personal injury attorney should also have their own network of experts who they might use to substantiate your claims and damages.
What Is Pure Comparative Negligence?
New York is a “pure comparative negligence” state. That means that even if you were partially to blame for the accident that caused your injuries, you might still qualify to recover your damages as long as you can prove the defendant’s negligence. However, any damages you may receive will reduce according to your percentage of the blame. For example, if you were 10 percent at fault for your accident, your damages can also decrease by 10 percent.
Defense attorneys commonly attempt to discredit medical experts and their opinions and also often use comparative negligence as a strategy to minimize their client’s liability by claiming the victim was partially or even entirely at fault for the accident.
If the doctors who are treating you and other medical experts agree your injuries are permanent, you may file a personal injury lawsuit.
You may claim economic and non-economic damages, including but not limited to:
- Medical costs;
- Future medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Rehabilitation services;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium;
- Scarring and disfigurement; and,
- In cases where a wrongful death claim is proper, funeral and burial expenses.
Common Issues in Third-Party Car Accident Claims in New York
Once you prove a permanent injury and move out of the no-fault car accident insurance system, your attorney still needs to prove the elements of an at-fault claim.
This includes proving:
- Liability – You must have evidence that the other driver engaged in negligent conduct, such as violating a traffic law.
- Damages – You must provide evidence to back up the compensation you demand, such as medical bills, pay statements, expert opinions regarding future losses, and more.
You can expect the insurance company to challenge your claim and offer much less than you deserve up front. Your lawyer can negotiate for the full amount you deserve and, if necessary, file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf. Proving a permanent injury is only one step in the process of receiving compensation from an at-fault driver.
How an NYC Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you suffered permanent injuries in a car accident in the Bronx, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Contact The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond today or dial (718) 588-2000 to schedule a free consultation and learn if we can help you.