October 29, 2014 • Car Accidents
Car accidents are common but not all of them have to result in death. Sometimes, an accident can leave you injured but whether your injury is ‘serious’ enough for the law in New York is a matter of debate. Soft tissue injuries; i.e. the injuries suffered by the connective tissue in your body like your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and the discs in your back and neck, can be very debilitating but they may not rise to the level of a ‘serious’ injury as per the law in New York for you to be able to go to court and ask for compensation.
The legislature sees it fit to include seven different injuries in the category of serious injuries. These are : personal injury resulting in
death, dismemberment, fracture, loss of fetus, permanent loss of body organ, member, or system; medically determined injury or impairment which may be impermanent but can stop the injured person from performing his daily activities for at least ninety days following the accident.
Broken bones vs. whiplash and bruises
So, a broken finger sustained in a car accident may give you enough grounds to cry foul in court but if you have bruises, or a whiplash – a common neck injury in a car accident due to rear end collision – it may not be enough. The law has strict criteria so that lawsuits resulting from minor accidents and injuries are kept away. The strict nature of the law has also made it hard to find a good trail lawyer to take on a soft injury case. Most lawyers in New York work on a contingency basis, so they are not paid their attorney fees unless the case they are heading is won. Till then the attorney will work on the case and pay the case expenses (what is known as disbursements) out of his own pocket. Hence, many trial lawyers shy away from taking on a soft tissue case where the investment outweighs the returns.
Fighting for compensation in court
It is very possible that a car accident case where the plaintiff has received soft injuries may not play out in court as expected. Given the non-serious nature of the injuries, the jury can decide to award the plaintiff with less compensation than they deserve, or had asked for in their lawsuit, or they can wrap up the case without awarding any compensation at all. It therefore becomes imperative that you talk your case through with your lawyer before you go to court and accept the possibility that things may not turn out quite as rosy as you hope.
This of course does not mean that you should lose all hope. Proving liability in court is an important weapon, and if you can show causation between each bruise you have received and the recklessness of the driver who caused it you may still have a case. Also, it is important to document the nature of each and every injury so that it gives enough material to your trial lawyer to ask the court to compensate you for your losses.