The victim of a New York automobile accident must show that he or she either suffered a serious injury or incurred basic economic loss greater than $50,000, per New York Insurance Law § 5104. Defendants therefore often seek summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff has not suffered a serious injury as defined by New York Insurance Law. On a motion for summary judgment, the defendant has the burden of making a prima facie showing that the plaintiff did not suffer a serious injury. To succeed, the defendant has to submit admissible evidence showing that there is no triable issue of fact. Making this showing often requires expert medical testimony. If the defendant meets its burden, then the plaintiff must present evidence that he or she did suffer serious injury. The result can be a trial court faced with conflicting expert testimony at the summary judgment stage, as in the case of Rosario v. Morales.
The plaintiff in this case alleged several injuries, including cervical spine disc displacement, cervical sprain, lumbar disc displacement, sprain of both shoulders, weakness in the right hand, and headaches.
The defendant submitted reports from a neurologist and an orthopedist who each examined the plaintiff. Both doctors found that the plaintiff had full ranges of motion in the cervical and lumbar spine. The orthopedist also found that he had the full ranges of motions in his shoulders, right hand, and wrist. The doctors offered the opinions that the plaintiff did not suffer permanence or neurological or orthopedic disability.
The plaintiff presented an affirmation of a doctor’s findings on an MRI report that reflected disc herniation and impingement. The plaintiff also submitted a report from his treating physician that described the restrictions in the plaintiff’s ranges of motion in his cervical and lumbar spine. It also showed diagnoses of cervical and lumbar disc herniations and lumbar radiculopathy. The treating physician offered the opinion that the plaintiff had a significant permanent partial loss of use and function in his lower back and neck.
The court noted a herniated disc can be a serious injury under the insurance law. It found that the plaintiff had raised an issue of material fact based on his treating doctor’s report. The court further noted that conflicting expert opinions are to be resolved by the fact finder.
As this case shows, an automobile accident case can survive summary judgment on the issue of serious injury as long as the plaintiff can raise a genuine issue of material fact.
Where there are conflicting expert opinions as to the extent of the plaintiff’s injury, it is the fact finder’s role to make a determination on the credibility and weight of those opinions. Our New York automobile accident attorneys understand the importance of strong medical evidence to support a claim of serious injury.
If you have been seriously injured in an automobile accident, call 1-877-313-7673. The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations.
Rosario v. Morales, March 3, 2016, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York
More Blog Entries:
Conflicting Medical Opinions Prevent Summary Judgment on Serious Injury Issue in New York, February 10, 2016, New York City Injury Lawyer Blog