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New York No-Fault Exceptions Partially Applied in Car Accident Involving Mother and Child

Under New York law, there are certain categories of injuries that can take a case outside the limitations of the “no fault” laws that would otherwise apply (and limit the injured person’s recovery substantially). Of course, as with everything else concerning Syracuse car accident cases, the insurance company that insured the careless driver will probably argue that the case should stay within the confines of no fault – thus saving them a payout on an injury claim caused by their negligent or reckless insured. Ultimately, these issues are resolved by a judge (and a jury if the case proceeds that far) – at least in cases in which the injured person retains counsel and fights for his or her legal rights, rather than allow the insurance adjuster to decide what is or is not due the victim.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case were the parents of a minor child who was allegedly injured in a car accident caused by the defendant driver. The wreck happened when the car in which the child was riding was struck from behind by the defendant driver while waiting to turn left. Neither the minor child nor his mother (who was driving the car) sought medical care immediately after the accident. However, both later complained of injuries that they believed were caused by the crash. The parents filed suit against both the driver and owner of the vehicle on the minor’s behalf, and the mother sued in her own right, as well, seeking monetary compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses caused by the motor vehicle accident.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaint. The Supreme Court of Broome County partially granted the motion, thereby dismissing the mother and the child’s claims of serious injury under the permanent consequential limitation of use category and dismissing the mother’s claim of serious injury under the significant limitation of use category. The defendants appealed the trial court’s denial of the remainder of their motion; the plaintiffs cross appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department affirmed the lower court’s order. The court began its analysis by addressing the defendants’ argument that the lower court should have granted their motion to dismiss the mother’s claim under the “90/180-day” category, pointing out that the defendants had the burden of establishing that the mother did not sustain a serious injury due to the accident. Because the plaintiff testified that back, neck, and shoulder pain following the accident, but the independent medical examination performed by the defendants’ medical expert did not discuss the 90/180-day category of serious injury, there remained material questions of fact such that summary judgment was inappropriate on this issue. As to the plaintiffs’ cross appeal, the reviewing court agreed with the defendants that they had satisfied their initial burden of establishing that the mother’s injuries did not qualify as a serious injury under the significant limitation of use and permanent consequential limitation of use categories; because the mother did not offer additional evidentiary support for her claim, the defendants were entitled to summary judgment as to these aspects of the case.

With regard to the child’s claim, the appellate division held that, contrary to the defendants’ assertions on appeal, the child’s injury was not required to be permanent in order to be a “serious injury” within the meaning of the statute pertaining to “significant limitation of use.” The court was also unavailed by the defendants’ argument that aggravation or exacerbation of an allegedly preexisting condition did not constitute a serious injury under the fracture category such that summary judgment should have been granted, insomuch as a material issue was presented by the parties’ respective evidence on this issue.

For Advice About Your Syracuse Personal Injury Case

Negligent drivers and their insurance companies have many tactics to try to limit the financial recovery of car and truck accident victims. In order to have a chance at a fair settlement or judgment, it is best to have an experienced Syracuse car accident attorney’s help in litigating your case. For an appointment to get started on your case, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano at 315-479-9000 today. Remember that personal injury cases have filing deadlines, so please do not put off this important call.

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