Are Traumatic Brain Injuries “Serious Injuries” for Car Accident Lawsuits?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur frequently in motor vehicle collisions in New York, but are these injuries serious enough to allow the injured person to file a lawsuit? In New York, to file a car accident lawsuit against one or more at-fault parties, you must meet something known as the “serious injury threshold.” Since New York is a no-fault state, injured people must seek compensation initially through their own no-fault coverage (also known as personal injury protection or PIP coverage). Then, if they meet the serious injury threshold, they can be eligible to file a lawsuit. When do TBIs count as serious injuries for this purpose?


Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries


Traumatic brain injuries can vary substantially in terms of their severity and debilitation, and different patients can experience similar types of brain injuries in distinct ways. Generally speaking, as the Mayo Clinic explains, TBIs can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.


Even mild TBIs, or concussions, can have long-term consequences depending upon the person injured and the circumstances of the brain trauma. Moderate and severe brain injuries can result in a person losing consciousness, entering a vegetative or minimally conscious state, and even experiencing brain death. Even when a person does not experience consequences that are so severe, their lives can still be significantly altered, given that the brain injury can lead to a stroke or blood clots, seizures, hydrocephalus, severe headaches, facial paralysis, loss of vision or hearing, swallowing problems, and many other cognitive issues.


Does a TBI Qualify as a Serious Injury?


To understand whether a traumatic brain injury can qualify as a “serious injury” that meets the threshold required to file a lawsuit, it is important to be clear about how New York law defines a “serious injury.” According to New York law, a serious injury for purposes of meeting the threshold requirement is a:


“[P]ersonal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or 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 a person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.”


As you can see, the law does not explicitly list a traumatic brain injury as an example of a serious injury that would meet the threshold required to file a lawsuit, but certain types of TBIs from car crashes could fall under the categories listed above. Indeed, even in the case of a mild TBI, that brain injury could result in a temporary but lengthy healing process in which the car accident victim cannot perform “substantially all of the material acts which constitute such a person’s usual and customary daily activities.”


Further, a moderate or severe brain injury from a car crash could certainly have this effect. In addition, a moderate or severe TBI could be described in some circumstances as resulting in the “permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system” or the “permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member” or a “significant limitation of use of a body function or system.”


Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in New York


If you suffered a TBI in a car crash, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. One of our New York auto accident lawyers is here to help. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC today to get started on your case.

Brain Injury Law

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