My x-rays at the Emergency Room were normal, does that mean I don’t have a serious injury?

Not all serious injuries show up on X-rays, and a follow-up with a specialist, including testing such as an MRI might indeed show a serious injury.

Section 5102(d) of the New York State Insurance Law gives guidance for what is legally considered a “serious injury.”

  1. Death
  2. Dismemberment
  3. Significant disfigurement
  4. Fracture
  5. Loss of a fetus
  6. A permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system
  7. A permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
  8. A significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  9. A “medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.”

In order to make a claim for pain and suffering in New York, an injured person must legally prove that they have a serious.  Let’s look at each of the categories:

  1. When somebody is killed in an accident, they will have a “wrongful death” claim, with its own rules and regulations.
  2. Dismemberment is when a part of the body is lost, such as losing a finger or arm.  This is obviously “serious.”
  3. Significant disfigurement can take many forms, but often it is a scar in a prominent place.  This can happen when a laceration does not heal well, and is an injury that might not show up on an x-ray.
  4. Fractures show up on X-rays and even the smallest fracture will meet the “serious injury” threshold.
  5. It must be proven that the loss of the fetus was caused by the accident, and did not happen spontaneously or for some other reason.
  6. This item can apply to a serious “soft-tissue” back injury, neck injury or other injuries that cause a permanent loss of use of a body part – such an nerve damage that causes paralysis, which might not show up on an x-ray.
  7. When a body part sustains a permanent “limited range of motion,” it is considered a serious injury.
  8. Very similar to number 7, but referring to different parts of the body
  9. When a person loses time from work or other activities for 90 days during the first 180 days after an accident, it is considered a “serious injury” even if there is a full recovery.

If you are feeling pain after an accident, you should see a doctor for a follow-up and consult a personal injury attorney, even if all your x-rays at the emergency room are negative.

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About the Author:

Alyce Wittenstein is a world class attorney, blogger and filmmaker. She began working at the firm in 1985 as a managing paralegal, learning all the practices and procedures of the firm from Mr. Wittenstein and the staff. From 1995-1998, she attended CUNY Law School where she made a mark as a teaching assistant for Civil Rights leader Haywood Burns. She founded a Human Rights Delegation to Haiti and studied Constitutional Law with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Working at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commision (EEOC), she learned a great deal about Employment Discrimination matters. She brought her knowledge of the Personal Injury practice and her passion for Civil Rights to the firm when she was admitted to the Bar in 1999. In 2000, she became a partner and the firm name was changed to Wittenstein & Wittenstein, Esqs. PC.

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