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The Court of Appeals of New York, in a slip opinion issued November 22, 2011, spoke out in favor of the stunning proposition that it’s okay if your doctor is more interested in treating you than in preparing your personal injury case for litigation.
The court’s decision in Perl v. Meher combines three separate automobile accident personal injury cases where the plaintiffs are alleging serious injuries. Under New York no-fault insurance law, you cannot sue a negligent driver for damages unless you have suffered an injury that meets the statutory definition of “serious injury” as defined in New York Insurance Law section 5012(d).
All three cases dealt with categories of the statute which define “serious injury” to include a limitation of use of a part of the body or bodily function. In these cases, the plaintiffs sought medical attention after the accident, and the doctor made notes about their condition for purposes of treatment. Some time later, in preparation of litigation, the plaintiffs again saw a doctor, who made more quantitative notes which are required to prove a case of limitation of use under the law.
The defendants argued that the doctors’ original notes were insufficient since they did not quantitatively summarize the condition, and that the later examinations were invalid because they happened too long after the fact. The court disagreed, noting that there is nothing wrong with a doctor initially taking notes that are designed for the purpose of treating the patient and not for litigation. There is also nothing wrong with seeing a doctor later for the purpose of litigation. In fact, as the court noted, when the defendant requires the plaintiff to submit to an examination by its doctor, the whole purpose is to prepare for litigation, in this case trying to prove that the injury is not “serious” or was not caused by the accident in question.
If you have been involved in any type of motor vehicle accident, seeking medical attention should be your number one concern. It is true that courts are skeptical of so-called soft tissue injuries that claim to be “serious injuries” under section 5102(d). In addition to seeking medical help, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for an evaluation of your injuries from a legal perspective to see if you may be able to recover damages from the negligent defendant.