Should the No-Fault Law’s “Serious Injury” Threshold Be Changed?

Should the No-Fault Law’s “Serious Injury” Threshold Be Changed?

New York’s No-Fault law allows people injured by careless drivers to receive payments for their medical bills and lost wages. A higher standard is imposed in order for people to recover for their pain and suffering and future expenses. They must suffer a “serious injury.”

The law defines serious injuries to include:

  • Death
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Fracture
  • Disfigurement
  • Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system
  • Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body function or system
  • A medically documented injury that prevents the injured party from performing most of their usual activities for at least 90 of the first 180 days after the injury.

While the first four categories are easier to prove, court rulings make it much more challenging to prove the remaining categories. This has lead to unjust and unexplainable results. For example, someone in a car crash, who suffers multiple back sprains, has MRIs that show related herniated discs and suffers from long-term pain, is likely to have a lawsuit for pain and suffering dismissed. While someone with the exact same injuries, but who also suffers a hairline, little finger fracture, could succeed in a lawsuit to recover compensation for all of their injuries against the reckless driver.

Under the current no-fault law, although both of the injured people in the two examples would have their initial medical bills paid, only the one with the broken little finger would have the right to separately sue the careless driver for pain and suffering and future expenses.

The no-fault law succeeds in preventing most people who are injured in car accidents from bringing lawsuits.

Why would a law exist that favors insurance companies and reckless car owners and drivers?

When the no-fault law was enacted, one of its goals was to make sure that people who suffered injuries in car accidents quickly and automatically received insurance coverage for their medical treatment. This was a plus, because before the no-fault law, the only way to get medical expenses repaid was for the injured person to sue the careless driver and win in court. That could take a long time and the outcome was uncertain. The law’s drawback is that only people whose injuries meet the serious injury threshold can recover against the careless driver for pain and suffering and future expenses.

It may be time for New York’s lawmakers to re-examine and revise the state’s no-fault law. It’s hard to imagine that our lawmakers wanted to deny New Yorkers who are permanently injured in motor vehicle accidents the right to recover fair compensation for their injuries unless they meet a medical standard that was enacted more than 30 years ago.

If you have any comments or questions about the no fault law’s unfairness, please contact me at

Ron Katter
Katter Law Firm
Phone: 866-LAW-HELP
Alt Phone: 212-809-4293

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