As discussed in an earlier blog post, Campbell & Associates does more to protect our client’s rights to “no-fault” benefits than any other personal injury firm in Western New York. Today we discuss the flip side of New York’s automobile insurance system – the “serious injury” threshold, and how insurance adjusters use the public’s lack of understanding about this law against them.
The interaction between “no fault” benefits and the “serious injury” threshold is a compromise. On one hand, as the name suggests, drivers in New York are entitled to reimbursement for basic economic loss (lost wages and medical expenses), even if the collision at issue is entirely their fault.
The flipside of that compromise is the serious injury threshold. While everyone is entitled to no-fault benefits, not everyone who is involved in a motor vehicle collision is entitled to compensation for their injuries. Only “serious injuries” qualify.
The law defines nine different categories of injuries that apply. Some of those categories are self-explanatory and easy to determine. For example, “death”, “dismemberment”, “fracture”, or “loss of fetus”.
However, some of the classifications are not so clear. For example, “permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member”. What does that mean? Fortunately, this is an oft-litigated area of law, so the answer to that question is readily accessible to attorneys who specialize in this area of law. But what about the average person?
Unfortunately, many insurance companies attempt to take advantage of the average person’s misconceptions and lack of understanding regarding these specialized questions of law. Very often, upon learning that someone has been involved in a motor vehicle collision for which they might be on the hook, they will swoop in, contact the injured person almost immediately, and act like they are there to be helpful. Sometimes, they even mislead the person, telling them (incorrectly) that under New York law they cannot possibly get money for their injuries unless they die, lose a limb, or break a bone. Then they try and convince the person to sign a release for a small amount of money, effectively cutting off all their rights. The results can be tragic.
The most important things for you to understand are: 1) you should never speak with a representative from another person’s insurance company before first consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney so that you know your rights; and 2) just because you may not have a broken bone, or a massive scar, or some other immediately apparent injury does not mean that you can’t or won’t qualify under the serious injury threshold. Injuries can sometimes be latent and take weeks or even months to be fully diagnosed. For example, to what extent a person has suffered a serious neck or back injury is often not apparent for many months. The symptoms linger, various types of treatment are tried, and finally an MRI is ordered which reveals that there is a herniated disc or other serious spine injury. Therefore, if you have any injury which requires medical treatment, you should consult with a good attorney as soon as possible.
At Campbell & Associates, our practice is 100% focused on personal injury and representing victims of other people’s negligence. You can always call (716) 992-2222 for a free consultation.