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New York Appellate Court Holds That Summary Judgment Should Have Been Partially Granted and Partially Denied in Car Accident Victim’s Suit Against UM/UIM Carrier

Under New York’s no-fault insurance laws, not every person who has been involved in a car accident has a right to sue the person responsible for the accident. Likewise, only those who meet certain exceptions to the no-fault rule can file the equivalent of a personal injury claim against their own uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier if the negligent party had no insurance (or too little insurance).

An experienced Syracuse car accident lawyer can review your case and help you determine whether your case meets the threshold for seeking compensation for personal injuries caused by another’s negligence.

In the event that suit is filed, it will ultimately be up to the trial court – and possibly the appeals tribunal, if review is sought – to determine whether the case falls within the purview of no-fault or whether your injuries were significant enough to take your case outside the limitations of the statute.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered by the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, the plaintiff was a woman who was involved in two separate motor vehicle accidents within a two-month period. She filed suit against her uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance company and against the owner and driver of the other car involved in the second accident. The defendants sought summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff had not suffered a “serious injury” within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102 (d) as a result of the respective accidents. The Supreme Court of Erie County denied the defendants’ motions, and they appealed.

The Court’s Ruling on Appeal

The appellate court modified the lower tribunal’s order to grant the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment with regard to the issue of whether the plaintiff had sustained a “serious injury” as that term is defined under the permanent consequential limitation of use category of § 5102(d). The court also ordered that summary judgment be granted to the defendant driver and owner and that the plaintiff’s claim against them be denied in its entirety.

According to the appellate court, the insurance company had met its initial burden by submitting evidence establishing as a matter of law that plaintiff had not suffered a serious injury under the permanent consequential limitation of use category. In the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had failed to raise a triable issue of fact because her spine surgeon’s affidavit regarding her alleged a 25% permanent consequential limitation of use of her lower back was conclusory and unsupported by objective medical evidence. With regard to the plaintiff’s claims regarding her alleged injury under the significant limitation of use category, however, the reviewing court opined that the trial court had been right to deny summary judgment because the defendant insurer’s own submissions contained conflicting medical evidence on this issue. The court also concluded that the insurer failed to meet its burden with respect to the 90/180-day category because of its own submissions on this issue.

As to the driver and motorist, the court agreed that they had provided persuasive evidence that the plaintiff’s injuries were related to preexisting conditions rather than to the second accident.

Talk to a Syracuse Injury Lawyer

Insurance companies and their adjusters deal with automobile accident claims day in and day out. This puts them at a substantial advantage over an everyday person who is not accustomed to filing insurance claims or dealing with legal matters. If you have been hurt and are ready to hire a seasoned Syracuse car accident lawyer to pursue fair compensation in your case, please call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000 and schedule an appointment to come in and tell us more about your accident and injuries. We look forward to serving you!

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