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Understanding the Serious Injury Threshold for Car Accident Personal Injury Claims in New York State

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Peter J. Gregory
Nov 7, 2023
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Car accidents can have devastating consequences, leaving victims with injuries that can have long-lasting impacts on their quality of life. In New York State, the serious injury threshold is a crucial factor in determining whether a victim is eligible to pursue a personal injury claim. This threshold sets a standard for the severity of injuries that must be met in order to seek compensation beyond basic no-fault benefits. In this article, we will delve into the serious injury threshold, what it entails, and how it affects car accident claims in New York State.

What is the Serious Injury Threshold?

The "serious injury" threshold is a legal concept established in New York State that restricts a victim's ability to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident. Under New York's "no-fault" insurance laws, individuals injured in car accidents are generally entitled to receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other economic damages from their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault. However, in cases where injuries are deemed "serious," victims can seek compensation beyond these basic no-fault benefits for additional physical and emotional pain and suffering. This threshold is designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits and to ensure that only those with substantial injuries can pursue greater financial compensation.

Qualifying Injuries under the Serious Injury Threshold

To meet the serious injury threshold in New York State, an injured party must sustain injuries that fall into one or more of the following categories that are specifically defined under New York law:

  • Death: In the tragic event of a fatal car accident, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Dismemberment: Such as the loss of a limb.
  • Significant Disfigurement: This includes injuries that result in severe scarring, burns, or other forms of visible disfigurement that significantly alter the victim's appearance.
  • Fractures: Any bone fractures should meet the threshold.
  • Loss of a Fetus: If a pregnant woman loses her fetus as a result of a car accident, it may qualify as a serious injury.
  • Permanent Loss of Use of a Body Organ, Member, Function or System: This refers to injuries that result in the permanent loss of function or use of a body part, such as an arm, leg, or organ.
  • Permanent Consequential Limitation of a Body Organ or Member
  • Significant Limitation of Use of a Body Function or System
  • Substantially Disability for 90 Days: If the victim is unable to perform their usual and customary daily activities for 90 total days within the first 180 days after the car accident, it may meet the threshold.

Navigating the Legal Process

Proving that injuries meet the serious injury threshold can be a complex process, often requiring expert medical testimony and a thorough understanding of New York's personal injury laws. It is crucial to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can assess the circumstances of the accident and gather the necessary evidence to establish the severity of the injuries. Additionally, timely action is essential in these cases. New York State imposes strict time limits, known as statutes of limitations, for filing personal injury claims. Missing these deadlines can result in the forfeiture of the right to seek compensation.


Understanding the serious injury threshold is key for individuals involved in car accidents in New York State. Meeting this threshold allows victims to pursue additional compensation beyond basic no-fault benefits, providing crucial support for their recovery. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a car accident, it is imperative to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can navigate the legal complexities and help you secure the compensation you deserve. Remember, time is of the essence, so don't delay in seeking legal advice to protect your rights and ensure a smoother path towards recovery.

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About the author: Peter J. Gregory is a partner with MCCM Personal Injury Lawyers in Rochester, NY.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. As a personal injury lawyer, Gregory focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at or (585) 512-3506.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.