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New York Court of Appeals Emphasizes Importance of Reliable Evidence in Injury Cases

When it comes to a car accident case, the keystone of a successful verdict or settlement is reliable, thorough and definitive medical evidence supporting the injury claim. In most instances, this is achieved by working with medical experts familiar with the plaintiff’s affliction(s), who are then called to testify as to the impact of the victim’s injuries on his or her lifelong prognosis.

Verdicts in severe injury cases can be extremely high, usually due to the calculation of the lifetime effect of the injury and whether the victim will be permanently disabled. Accordingly, plaintiffs seeking recovery must meet the definition of a “serious injury” as provided in Insurance Law § 5104(a) & (b), which requires the plaintiff to show his or her injuries meet or exceed $50,000 in economic loss and resulted in at least one of the following:

 Death
 Dismemberment, or significant dismemberment
 Fracture
 Loss of a fetus
 Permanent loss of an organ, member, function or system, or a permanent consequential limitation
 Significant limitation of a bodily function
 A non-permanent injury that prevents the victim from performing material daily activities for 90 days or more within the 180 days immediately following the date of the injury.

Under these requirements, a plaintiff whose case does not meet the criteria will likely face dismissal on summary judgment, as is the situation in the case detailed below.

Plaintiff Unable to Meet Evidentiary Standard in Alvarez v. NYLL Management Ltd.

In 2014, the New York Supreme Court dismissed a personal injury case involving a motor vehicle accident wherein the plaintiff failed to show any genuine factual dispute of the existence of a serious injury as defined above. In other words, the evidence to support a finding of serious injury was so sparse, the court determined it would have been impossible for a reasonable jury to find in plaintiff’s favor.

In Alvarez, the plaintiff endured a car accident, which allegedly caused injury to her right shoulder, right knee and neck. She then initiated a personal injury lawsuit against the other party involved in the collision and asserted that her injuries – while not permanent in nature – met the standard set forth above in that she was rendered substantially limited for at least 90 days following the accident.

At trial, the plaintiff introduced testimony by an orthopedist, who actually found that the plaintiff had full range of motion in all affected body parts. Moreover, the plaintiff’s orthopedist and treating physician both found that the plaintiff’s injuries were degenerative in nature – citing a documented onset of arthritis in the plaintiff’s medical reports. In addition, the court noted a lack of testimony by either doctor as to whether the plaintiff’s degenerative conditions contributed to – or were aggravated by – the alleged injuries sustained in the auto accident.

In sum, the court dismissed the case for lack of disputable evidence and reiterated the importance of meeting the “serious injury” classifications outlined in the New York Insurance Law code.

Knowledgeable and Experienced Brewster Car Accident Lawyers are Ready to Help

If you were recently injured in an auto accident and would like to discuss your rights, we encourage you to contact Lynch, Schwab & Gasparini, PLLC today by calling 914-304-4353.

Posted on July 8, 2015 in Personal Injury