In order to bring a personal injury lawsuit in New York following a car accident, you must offer proof of a “serious injury.” One thing a court will look at is whether you received continuous medical treatment from the date of the accident. Any “gap in treatment” may lead a judge to determine that you did not suffer a serious injury and to subsequently dismiss your lawsuit.
For example, in a2005 case, the New York Court of Appeals affirmed a trial judge's dismissal of a personal injury claim where the victim ceased all physical therapy six months after his car accident. “While a cessation of treatment is not dispositive,” the Court explained, “a plaintiff who terminates therapeutic measures following the accident, while claiming 'serious injury' must offer some reasonable explanation for having done so.” The Court added that it was not necessary for a victim to document every aspect of a decision to receive or stop treatment, but that there had to be some explanation in order to survive a defense motion for summary judgment.
In a2013 decision, the Court of Appeals emphasized it did not “require any particular proof” regarding an accident victim's explanation at the summary judgment stage. That case involved an accident victim who testified he stopped receiving treatment after five months because his no-fault benefits lapsed and he lacked medical insurance. The Court noted while it would have been “preferable” had the victim submitted additional evidence explaining why he lacked insurance, his failure to do so did not justify dismissing his lawsuit outright.
Long Island Judge Rejects “Vague Assertion” Victim Lacked Insurance
Despite the Court of Appeals' guidelines, many trial courts remain hostile towards unsubstantiated statements that an accident victim ceased medical treatment due to lack of insurance. Consider arecent decision by a judge in Suffolk County. In this case, the plaintiff claimed she suffered a serious injury as the result of a 2008 multi-car accident in Islip, New York. The Suffolk County Supreme Court dismissed the complaint, citing among other issues the victim's failure to explain multiple gaps in her medical treatment. According to the Supreme Court, the plaintiff “simply asserts in her affidavit in opposition to the motion that she stopped receiving medical treatment” after her insurance benefits lapsed. The judge deemed this “vague assertion insufficient” to meet the standard articulated by the Court of Appeals in cases like the ones discussed above.
One problem was that the victim reported two extended gaps in her treatment, and the judge could not determine whether lack of insurance contributed to one or both. Additionally, the judge said it was “unclear” whether the victim had any health insurance of her own to pick up coverage after her no-fault benefits lapsed. For this and other reasons, the judge held that the victim failed to sufficiently demonstrate she suffered a “serious injury” as defined in New York law.
Need Help With a Personal Injury Claim?Accident cases often turn on the plaintiff's ability—or inability—to properly document his or her injuries to the court. That is why it is essential you work with an experienced New York personal injury attorney who understands the law and how it affects your claim. Contact the attorneys at Waldhauser & Nisar, LLP, today if you would like to speak with someone about your case.