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Not All Eye Injuries Are Serious Injuries

A recent case in Queens County shows that not all eye injuries are “serious injuries” under New York law. This case also points up the challenges an injured plaintiff faces in getting an automobile accident personal injury case to trial.

New York has no-fault insurance, which generally speaking allows automobile accident victims to recover compensation from their insurance company for injuries sustained in an accident, without regard to who was fault. Your recovery is limited, however, to the amount of coverage on your policy, which may be as little as $25,000. This no-fault system does not allow you to sue the other driver for negligence, unless you suffered a “serious injury” as that term is defined in New York Insurance Law 5102(d). Included in this definition would be a “permanent loss” or “permanent consequential limitation of use” of a body organ.

In the recent case of Thomas v. Smith, the plaintiff claimed that her right eye was injured while riding in defendant’s car. The court dismissed the case on a summary judgment motion by the defendant, meaning that there were no triable issues of fact for a jury to decide, and the case could be determined by the judge as a matter of law.

While the plaintiff must make an initial claim of a serious injury, the defendant can rebut this claim by submitting statements from medical experts who examined the plaintiff and did not find any evidence to support the plaintiff’s claim. If that happens, the plaintiff then has the burden of overcoming the defendant’s evidence by showing that there is a factual issue regarding whether the injury was serious or not that should be decided by a jury.

In this case, the defendant had the plaintiff examined by an ophthalmologist who said there was “no evidence of any damage or injury to the right eye,” “visual acuity is completely normal,” and there was “0 percent visual disability.” The report of the plaintiff’s doctor, on the other hand, mentioned only “endothelial cell damage” and speculated that this could possibly require treatment and surgery in the future. The plaintiff’s doctor did not find any impaired vision, and the plaintiff herself testified that she did not have any pain in her eye. This collection of facts were enough for the court to dismiss the case in the defendant’s favor.

When you are injured in an automobile accident, you probably feel that your injuries are indeed serious, and you want to be compensated for the damages caused by another’s negligence. But achieving a successful recovery requires an in-depth knowledge of the law and the ability to prepare and present a persuasive case that can overcome the challenges mounted by the insurance company lawyers. If you have been injured in a New York City automobile accident, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.