What is a “serious” injury?


What is a “serious” injury?

To establish liability in a personal injury action in New York, a plaintiff must show he or she suffered an injury meeting the definition of ‘“serious.”  New York Insurance Law section 5102 defines serious injury to be the result of any of the conditions listed below. While the first few injuries may seem straightforward, the last four can be ambiguous in application.

  • Death,
  • Dismemberment,
  • Significant disfigurement,
  • A fracture,
  • Loss of a fetus,
  • Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system,
  • Permanent consequential limitation of use of body organ or member,
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system,
  • Or medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature preventing the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts in daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days following the injury.”


Although permanent loss or consequential limitation of a body organ, member or function would seem clear, New York courts do not always consider an injury as permanent loss or a limitation if the injured party is still able to use some other function associated with the injured area. For example, the plaintiff must show that their impairment was more than a temporary limitation, such as a bruised rib, which would be capable of recovery. Additionally, if the injured party suffers injury and is receiving treatment, but then suspends the treatment, the court may not find that the injured party is still suffering from their serious injury.

The Importance of Medical Records & Medical Experts

A very important portion of proving that an injury was serious is providing documented medical evidence of the condition as well as how it has limited or destroyed the injured party’s ability to use that particular function. This can be done by identifying adequate medical experts to show how the accident was a direct independent cause of the injury. Without these experts, it is difficult for the court to establish whether an injury qualifies as serious as well as whether the injury was a direct cause.

90/180 Limitation

The requirement for medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature requires a significant showing that the injured party was not able to perform his or her daily routine and activities to a great extent. For example, returning to work immediately after the injury, or within the few weeks following, but not being able to do household or extracurricular activities would not satisfy this requirement. The injured party must have suffered the limiting activity for at least three months following the accident. If an injured party is attempting to show this condition has been met, it is important for daily activities to be well documented.


If you have a personal injury claim and need representation, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced team of personal injury lawyers at Haicken Law by either calling us at 212-LAW-TEAM or using the Contact Us page of our Web site to contact us.

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About Matthew Haicken

I have been practicing personal injury and insurance law since my graduation from law school in 2007. In addition to years as a practicing lawyer, I also spent three years working at a large insurance company where I worked with excellent lawyers from around the country. This experience has proven invaluable. I gained insight into how insurance companies evaluate claims, and I learned the tactics they employ to fight personal injury lawsuits. I enjoy helping people through difficult situations and making a positive impact on the lives of my clients. When not practicing law, I am actively involved in NYSTLA, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. We are a group that lobbies on behalf of injury victims. I believe the courthouse doors should be open to everyone, regardless of his or her immigration status, or financial situation. I am committed to fighting for a strong civil justice system that enables people who have been harmed to hold wrongdoers accountable.

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