New York Car Accident Soft Tissue Injury New York Car Accident Law: Can A Soft Tissue Injury Be Serious?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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In order to receive pain & suffering compensation for an injury in New York, that injury must meet the state’s definition of “serious.” While broken bones certainly qualify, what about soft tissue injuries that are harder to prove, such as a back or neck strain?

New York Soft tissue injuries

Ira Slavit, a New York attorney in practice for over 20 years whose firm concentrates its practice in personal injury matters and medical malpractice litigation, says that while soft tissue injuries can be classified as serious injuries, it is actually one of the more difficult situations that comes up in auto accident cases – where you have a client who is injured and is suffering, but you don’t have that x-ray that you can show a fracture because a fracture automatically qualifies as a serious injury. He explained:

What often happens is that maybe two or three years after the accident, if the case has been certified that it is ready for trial, the insurance company will file motion papers requesting that the case be dismissed on the ground that the injury doesn’t qualify as a serious injury. This happens in the situations where there isn’t a fracture or a clear-cut injury that qualifies.

Very often the category of permanent, consequential limitation of use of a body part or function is what gets litigated. It is very important that the attorney has the medical documentation of treatment, diagnosis and test results available so these can be presented to the court in opposition to the motion to convince the judge that there is, at least, some issue for the jury to decide.

Objective evidence required

The law also requires that there be objective medical evidence, according to Slavit, who said, “It’s not enough just to have a client say, ‘My back still hurts, My neck still hurts, or I can’t do this or that,’ because of the accident. You need to have objective medical proof, which also requires more than just a doctor saying that it’s a permanent injury three years later. The courts really scrutinize the records of medical treatment as treatment was being rendered. It’s always very important for a patient who is treating with a doctor to follow the doctor’s advice and receive the treatment that has been recommended.”

‘Serious’ injury, ‘serious’ advice

We asked Slavit what advice he would you give to someone who isn’t quite certain whether his or her injury can be categorized as serious. He told us that it’s really not possible to go on the internet and look up the definition of a serious injury and decide whether a case exists on that basis alone; that it’s more nuance and sophistication that requires the judgment of an experienced attorney. He explained:

When clients speak to me for the first time, it’s usually pretty close in time to when the accident happened and it’s too early to know whether there’s going to be permanency. How can you really tell for sure after a few days or a few weeks whether there’s going to be permanency? You can’t. I’m more concerned that the client not do anything in the early stages to jeopardize their chances of recovering in the event that they do end up with a permanent injury.

I would say the thing to do is to contact an attorney and just make sure that proper and necessary medical treatment is being rendered and then see how things develop. At that point, the lawyer is in a better position to evaluate whether the case may qualify as a serious injury.

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident in New York, contact an experienced New York auto accident lawyer to discuss your situation confidentially.

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