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New York Court Agrees That Plaintiff’s Car Wreck Case Failed to Meet Exception to No-Fault Statute

The state of New York is considered a “no-fault” state for insurance purposes. This means that, unless a driver or passenger who is hurt in a Syracuse car accident falls under a limited number of exceptions set forth under state law, he or she cannot recover money damages from the negligent driver who caused the crash.

However, it is important to note that “no-fault” does not completely foreclose the possibility of litigation following an accident. It simply means that the plaintiff must qualify under the relevant statutory framework in order to pursue a claim in court against the responsible driver.

As might be expected, disputes frequently arise regarding whether or not a given case should be litigated or should fall under “no-fault” rules. The trial court is typically called upon to make the initial determination on this issue, but the appeals court may eventually be asked to weigh in, as well.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent negligence case appealed from the Supreme Court of Bronx County was a woman who sought compensation for personal injuries she allegedly sustained in an automobile accident that she claimed was caused by the negligence of the defendants. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, averring that the plaintiff’s complaint for money damages should be dismissed because she had failed to demonstrate that she had suffered a “serious injury” as that term was defined under New York Insurance Law § 5102(d). Despite the plaintiff’s objection to the motion, the trial court sided with the defendants and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. She appealed, seeking further consideration from the intermediate appeals court.

The Decision on Appeal

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendants. According to the reviewing court, the defendants had satisfied their prima facie burden of proof as to their motion by the submission of certain expert witness reports, namely the reports of an orthopedic doctor and a neurologist, both of whom had been retained by the defendants to examine the plaintiff and opine on her physical condition following the accident. According to their reports, the physicians were of the opinion that the plaintiff had only slight limitations in one of her knees, and her physical examination showed that she was objectively normal. The experts further opined that any alleged injury to the plaintiff was not causally connected to the accident at issue in the lawsuit.

Although the plaintiff filed her own expert’s report in opposition to the defendant’s motion, the court found that the plaintiff’s expert had failed to reconcile his findings with that of the plaintiff’s emergency care physician, who found that she had a full range of motion three days after the accident. Under the facts presented, the appellate tribunal agreed with the lower court that the defendants were entitled to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed under the “90/180-day” rule. In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff had only been confined to her home for a few days post-accident.

Speak with Counsel About Your Car Accident Case in Syracuse

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000 or use the contact form on this website. We also handle cases in Rochester and other areas of upstate New York.

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