In support of their motion, the opponents submitted the affirmed medical report

March 10, 2013,

This is an action for personal injury in which a Bronx man alleges that he sustained an injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident. A vehicle owned by a cab cormpany struck the man's vehicle in the rear. The man claims that as a result of the accident he sustained spine injury, back pain, muscle spasms in lumbar spine and radiculopathy. The opponent however requests to dismiss the case agasint them on the ground that the man failed to meet the serious injury threshold.

In support of their motion, the opponents submitted the affirmed medical report of a radiologist who reviewed the MRI of the man's thoracic spine. The opponent also submitted the affirmed medical report of a board certified neurologist and the man's deposition testimony.

The Westchester radiologist found a scoliosis and diffuse degenerative changes of the thoracic intervertebral discs of the man and concluded that the small posterior disc protrusions present are of uncertain age and etiology and may be degenerative in nature.

The neurologist, who conducted a physical examination of the man, used a hand held goniometer to measure the man's ranges of motion and found a normal range of motion in all spheres. In her diagnosis, the neurologist determined normal neurological evaluation, no focal deficits and a neurologically intact. Aside from her quantification assessment, the neurologist also made a qualitative assessment, finding that the man was able to get on and off the bed and turn to his sides unassisted. He can boot, unboot, dress and undress without assistance. He can also move his head, neck and body freely during unguarded conversation. She further found no neurological disability and he has no restrictions on activities of daily living and no permanency or residuals.

The opponents also pointed the man's deposition testimony in which he testified that he is self-employed as an owner of a security guard company and is required to supervise his staff and to travel to three different locations during the day. He further testified that he stayed home three or four days after the accident and probably missed three weeks from work. He further testified that the only physical or athletic activity that he engaged in before the accident was weight training which he continues to engage in to a lesser degree.

The man initially seeks to discredit the opponents' experts. He argues that the neuroligist fails to review any of his medical records and the neurologist reliance solely on her onetime physical examination undercut her conclusion that the man did not sustain a serious injury. He also argues that the radiologist's conclusion after reviewing the MRI film that the small posterior disc protrusions were the result of degenerative changes not trauma is irrelevant and therefore the opponents failed to demonstrate that the disc bulges, herniated discs, limitation of flexion, extension and rotation of the man's thoracic spine as found by their own examining physicians did not demonstrate a serious damage.

The opponent however failed to meet the burden of showing that the man did not sustain a serious injury as a result of the accident. The papers submitted by the opponent in support of the motion included the affirmed medical report of his examining orthopedist which showed the existence of limitations in the range of motion of the injured the man's cervical spine. The bare conclusory opinion of the opponent's orthopedist is that the decreased range of motion is due to degenerative changes that are pre-existing and was without probative value.
Consequently, the court granted the motion of the opponents to dismiss the case filed against them and further dismissed the complaint.

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Insurance claims that injuries are not serious

March 6, 2013,

On 6 July 2006, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. Consequently, plaintiff filed a personal injury action against The Bronx defendant to recover damages for the injuries he sustained as a result of the accident. In opposition, defendant moved for a motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that plaintiff has not sustained a serious injury within the meaning of Insurance Law.

The issue that was brought before the court for resolution was whether or not plaintiff has sustained a personal injury that is within the definition of serious injury under Insurance Law, and, as such, entitles him to recover damages from defendant.

As provided for under the no-fault law, in order to maintain an action for personal injury, a plaintiff must establish that a serious injury has been sustained. This is pursuant to the ruling of the court in the landmark case of Licari v. Elliot which was decided sometime in 1982. As a rule, the proponent of a motion for summary judgment must tender sufficient evidence to show the absence of any material issue of fact and the right to judgment as a matter of law; as held in the case of Alvarez v. Prospect Hospital, in 1986, and the case of Winegrad v. New York Univ. Medical Center, in 1985. Pursuant to the court’s ruling in the case of Lowe v. Bennett, which was decided by the 1st Department sometime in 1986, the burden rests on defendants to establish, by the submission of evidentiary proof in admissible form, that plaintiff has not suffered a serious injury. When a defendant's motion is sufficient to raise the issue of whether a serious injury has been sustained, the burden shifts and it is then incumbent upon the plaintiff to produce prima facie evidence in admissible form to support the claim of serious injury. This was the Westchester court’s ruling in the cases of Licari v. Elliot and Lopez v. Senatore, in 1985. In support of a claim that plaintiff has not sustained a serious injury, a defendant may rely either on the sworn statements of the defendant's examining physician or the unsworn reports of plaintiff's examining physician. Once the burden shifts, it is incumbent upon plaintiff, in opposition to defendant's motion, to submit proof of serious injury in admissible form. Unsworn reports of plaintiff's examining doctor or chiropractor will not be sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Thus, a medical affirmation or affidavit which is based on a physician's personal examination and observations of plaintiff is an acceptable method to provide a doctor's opinion regarding the existence and extent of a plaintiff's serious injury. As held in the cases of Gonzalez v. Vasquez in 2003 and Ayzen v. Melendez in 2002, unsworn MRI reports are not competent evidence unless both sides rely on those reports. However, in order to be sufficient to establish a prima facie case of serious physical injury, the affirmation or affidavit must contain medical findings, which are based on the physician's own examination, tests and observations and review of the record rather than manifesting only the plaintiff's subjective complaints. It must be noted that a chiropractor is not one of the persons authorized by the CPLR to provide a statement by affirmation, and thus, for a chiropractor, only an affidavit containing the requisite findings will suffice; as ruled in the cases of Pichardo v. Blum in 1999 and Feintuch v. Grella in 2003. In any event, the findings, which must be submitted in a competent statement under oath, or affirmation, when permitted, must demonstrate that plaintiff sustained at least one of the categories of serious injury as enumerated in Insurance Law. For example, in the case of Parker v. DeFontaine, it was held that a medical affidavit, which demonstrated that the plaintiff's threshold motion limitations were objectively measured and observed by the physician, was sufficient to establish that plaintiff has suffered a serious injury within the meaning of that term as set forth in Article 51 of the Insurance Law. In other words, a physician's observation as to actual limitations qualifies as objective evidence since it is based on the physician's own examinations. Besides, in the absence of objective medical evidence in admissible form of serious injury, plaintiff's self-serving affidavit is insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact.

Here, defendant has established a prima facie case that plaintiff did not suffer a serious injury as defined in Insurance Law, for all categories. The defendant submitted, among other things, the affirmed reports of four independent examining and/or evaluating physicians, particularly, an orthopedist, a neurologist, two radiologists, and plaintiff's verified bill of particulars.
According to Dr. AA, defendant's independent examining orthopedist, in his affirmed report, he examined plaintiff on 5 February 2006; the examination revealed a diagnosis of resolved cervical and lumbosacral strains/sprains; and he concluded that plaintiff's examination was non-focal and plaintiff was neurologically intact.

According to Dr. BB, defendant's independent examining neurologist, in her affirmed report, she examined plaintiff on 7 February 2008; and the examination revealed a diagnosis of resolved post cervical and lumbar sprains.

According to Dr. CC and Dr. DD, defendant's independent evaluating radiologists, in their affirmed report, plaintiff’s MRI of the cervical spine which was taken on 10 August 2006 revealed a diagnosis of multilevel disc dessication and degeneration, and posterior and anterior disc displacement as described in association with productive bony changes; they both opined that the findings were consistent with a chronic degenerative spinal disease or a spinal injury which was a pre-existing condition and was a long-standing discogenic disease; and they concluded that the findings most likely reflected natural wear and tear. On plaintiff’s MRI of the lumbar spine which was taken on 16 August 2006, both doctors found that it revealed a diagnosis of degenerated, herniated L5-S1 disc in association with productive bony changes; they both opined that the findings were also consistent with a chronic degenerative spinal disease or a spinal injury which was a pre-existing condition and was a long-standing discogenic disease; and they also concluded that the findings most likely reflected natural wear and tear.


Evidently, the defendant has submitted proof in admissible form in support of his motion for summary judgment, for all categories of serious injury. In addition, the defendant has also established a prima facie case for the category of 90/180 days. According to the plaintiff, in her verified bill of particulars, she was only confined to bed for four (4) days; she was only confined to home for five (5) days; and she was not confined to the hospital. These admissions clearly show that plaintiff was not curtailed from nearly all activities for the bare minimum of 90/180, as required by the statute.

Based on the evidence presented, defendant has indeed demonstrated that plaintiff did not sustain a serious injury. Thus, the burden then shifted to plaintiff to raise a triable issue of fact that a serious injury was sustained within the meaning of the Insurance Law. Failure to raise a triable issue of fact requires the granting of summary judgment and dismissal of the complaint.

Here, plaintiff has failed to raise a triable issue of fact. In opposition to the defendant’s motion, plaintiff submitted the following: a physician's affirmation of plaintiff's orthopedist, Dr. A; a physician's affirmation of plaintiff's radiologist, Dr. B, pertaining to plaintiff's cervical spine; a physician's affirmation of plaintiff's radiologist, Dr. B, pertaining to plaintiff's lumbosacral spine; MRI reports of Dr. B pertaining to plaintiff's cervical and lumbosacral spine; an attorney's affirmation; and plaintiff's own affidavit.

While the defendant's independent examining radiologists opined in their affirmed report that their examination of plaintiff revealed a chronic degenerative spinal disease or a spinal injury which was a pre-existing degenerative condition in both the cervical and lumbar spines, plaintiffs' experts nonetheless failed to indicate their awareness that plaintiff was suffering from such condition and failed to address the effect of these findings on plaintiff's claimed accident injuries. Henceforth, as held in the celebrated case of Pommels v. Perez which was decided by the court sometime in 2005, plaintiff failed to rebut defendant's claim sufficiently to raise a trial issue of fact. Moreover, the plaintiff has failed to come forward with sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff sustained a medically-determined injury which prevented her from performing substantially all of the material acts which constituted her usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 of the 180 days immediately following the underlying automobile accident. Under the rules, the record must contain objective or credible evidence to support the plaintiff's claim that the injury prevented plaintiff from performing substantially all of her customary activities. When construing the statutory definition of a 90/180-day claim, the words "substantially all" should be construed to mean that the person has been prevented from performing her usual activities to a great extent, rather than some slight curtailment. In the case at bar, plaintiff has failed to include experts' reports or affirmations which render an opinion on the effect the injuries claimed may have had on the plaintiff for the 180-day period immediately following the subject automobile accident. As such, plaintiff's submissions were insufficient to establish a triable issue of fact as to whether plaintiff suffered from a medically determined injury that curtailed her from performing her usual activities for the statutory period. Obviously, plaintiff's claim that her injuries prevented her from performing substantially all of the material acts constituting her customary daily activities during at least 90 of the first 180 days following the accident was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact, as held in the case of Graham v Shuttle Bay which was decided by the 1st Dept. sometime in 2001; the case of Hernandez v. Cerda which was decided by the 2nd Dept. sometime in 2000; and the case of Ocasio v. Henry which was also decided by the 2nd Dept. sometime in 2000. Moreover, plaintiff's attorney's affirmation was not an admissible probative evidence of medical issues. Plaintiff's attorney has failed to demonstrate personal knowledge of the plaintiff's injuries. What's more, plaintiff's affidavit and deposition statements were self-serving and were not given great weight. They were insufficient to raise triable issues of fact.

Based on the evidence presented, plaintiff clearly failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Plaintiff's submissions were undoubtedly insufficient.

In sum, plaintiff has not sustained a serious injury within the meaning of the Insurance Law. Thus, the defendant's motion for summary was granted in its entirety and the plaintiff's complaint was dismissed as to all categories.

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Passengers are injured in Car Accident

March 3, 2013,

This action arises out of an automobile accident. It is alleged that at the time of the accident, the complainant man was the driver of a motor vehicle in which the complainant women were passengers; and that the complainants' vehicle was rear-ended by the defendants' vehicle.
Under the no-fault law, in order to maintain an action for personal injury, a complainant must establish that a serious injury has been sustained. The proponent of a motion for summary judgment must tender sufficient evidence to show the absence of any material issue of fact and the right to judgment as a matter of law. In the present action, the burden rests on the defendants to establish, by the submission of evidentiary proof in admissible form, that the complainant man has not suffered a serious injury. When a defendant's motion is sufficient to raise the issue of whether a serious injury has been sustained, the burden shifts and it is then incumbent upon the complainant to produce legitimate evidence in admissible form to support the claim of serious injury.

In support of a claim that the Westchester complainant has not sustained a serious injury, a defendant may rely either on the sworn statements of the defendant's examining physician or the unsworn reports of the complainant's examining physician. Once the burden shifts, it is incumbent upon the complainant, in opposition to defendant's motion, to submit proof of serious injury in admissible form. Unsworn reports of the complainant's examining doctor or chiropractor will not be sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Thus, a medical affirmation or affidavit which is based on a physician's personal examination and observations of the complainant is an acceptable method to provide a doctor's opinion regarding the existence and extent of a complainant's serious injury. Unsworn MRI reports are not competent evidence unless both sides rely on those reports. However, in order to be sufficient to establish a legitimate case of serious physical injury the affirmation or affidavit must contain medical findings, which are based on the physician's own examination, tests and observations and review of the record rather than manifesting only the complainant's subjective complaints. It must be noted that a chiropractor is not one of the persons authorized by the Civil Practice Law and Rules to provide a statement by affirmation, and thus, for a chiropractor, only an affidavit containing the requisite findings will suffice.

In any event, the findings, which must be submitted in a competent statement under oath (or affirmation, when permitted) must demonstrate that the complainant sustained at least one of the categories of serious injury as enumerated in Insurance Law.

A Bronx physician's observation as to actual limitations qualifies as objective evidence since it is based on the physician's own examinations. Furthermore, in the absence of objective medical evidence in admissible form of serious injury, the complainant's self-serving affidavit is insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact.

The defendants have submitted proof in admissible form in support of the motion for summary judgment, against the complainant driver for all categories of serious injury, except for the category of 90/180-days. The defendants submitted the affirmed reports from two independent examining physicians (an orthopedist and a neurologist).

The affirmed report of defendants' independent examining orthopedist indicates that an examination conducted revealed a diagnosis of status-post cervical, thoracic and lumbar sprain/strain and status-post right knee injury. He opines that claimant does not need any treatment or testing from an orthopedic perspective. The orthopedist concludes that the claimant has no disability or work restriction.

The affirmed report of defendants' independent examining neurologist indicates that an examination conducted revealed a diagnosis of normal neurological examination, no focal deficits, neurologically intact, resolved cervical, thoracic, and lumbar sprain/strain, claimant's knee complaints are deferred to the appropriate specialty. He opines that claimant does not need any treatment or testing from a neurological perspective. The neurologist further opines that there is no disability at the present time. Finally, the neurologist concludes that there are no restrictions of activities of daily living, including work, at the present time.

The defendants have failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to the 90/180-day claim. When construing the statutory definition of a 90/180-day claim, the words substantially all should be construed to mean that the person has been prevented from performing his usual activities to a great extent, rather than some slight curtailment. The defendants' experts examined the complainant driver almost 4 years after the date of the complainant's alleged personal injury and accident. The defendants' experts failed to render an opinion on the effect the injuries claimed may have had on the complainant for the 180 day period immediately following the accident. The reports of the independent medical examiner (IME) relied upon by defendants fail to discuss this particular category of serious injury and further, the IME's took place well beyond the expiration of the 180-day period. With respect to the 90/180-day serious injury category, the defendants has failed to meet their initial burden of proof and, therefore, has not shifted the burden to the complainant to lay bare its evidence with respect to this claim. As the defendants have failed to establish a legitimate case with respect to the ninth category, it is unnecessary to consider whether the complainant driver’s papers in opposition to the defendants' motion on this issue were sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact. Accordingly, the defendants are not entitled to summary judgment with respect to the ninth category of serious injury, regarding the complainant driver.

The aforementioned evidence amply satisfied the defendants' initial burden of demonstrating that the complainant driver did not sustain a serious injury, with regards to all categories except for the ninth category of 90/180-days. Thus, the burden then shifted to the complainant driver to raise a triable issue of fact that a serious injury was sustained within the meaning of the Insurance Law, as to all categories except for the ninth category of 90/180-days. Failure to raise a triable issue of fact requires the granting of summary judgment and dismissal of the complaint.

In opposition to the motion, the complainant driver submitted the uncertified police accident report, pleadings, unsworn medical records, an affirmation and narrative report of the complainant's physiatrist, an affirmation and MRI report of the complainant's radiologist, and the complainant's own affidavit.

A medical affirmation or affidavit which is based upon a physician's personal examinations and observation of the complainant is an acceptable method to provide a doctor's opinion regarding the existence and extent of a complainant's serious injury. The causal connection must ordinarily be established by competent medical proof. The complainant has established a causal connection between the accident and the injuries. The affirmation submitted by the treating physiatrist sets forth the objective examination, tests, and review of medical records which were performed contemporaneously with the accident to support his conclusion that the complainant suffered significant range of motion deficits in the complainant's neck and lower back.

The physician’s medical examination opines that the injuries are permanent in nature, significant, causally related to the motor vehicle accident and result in a permanent consequential impairment of the patient's abilities. Clearly, the complainants' experts' conclusions are not based solely on the complainant driver's subjective complaints of pain, and therefore are sufficient to defeat the motion.

Therefore, the complainant driver has raised a triable issue of fact and accordingly, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied in its entirety as against the complainant driver.

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Serious injury is questioned in a car accident case

February 24, 2013,

This is a case resolving the motion filed by the defendant for a summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff did not suffer any “serious injury” in the car accident which preceded the filing of this instant case. The defendant alleged that the injuries suffered by the plaintiff do not belong to the same category as that which was defined under the New York State Insurance Law. Plaintiff was not able to submit any opposition to the motion.

This case sprang from the incident which occurred on April 8, 2010 in Westchester wherein the parties were involved in a motor vehicle accident which led to the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. According to the plaintiff, he sustained the following damages: partial tear of the left shoulder and spinal injuries.

Under the law, it is required that the movant for a motion for summary judgment must make a prima facie case showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by providing sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of material issues of fact. He must be able to establish his claim by tendering evidence to prove that the court must decide in his favor.

A motion for summary judgment requires that there must be no triable issue of fact presented by the movant. Thus, in this case, the defendant must prove, by competent and relevant evidence that the plaintiff did not sustain any serious injury which could have been the possible result of the vehicular collision between the parties.

On the other hand, the plaintiff must provide an objective proof of the injuries he sustained. An example of such evidence is a sworn MRI and CT scan tests. These tests must be paired with the physician’s observations during the physical examination of the Bronx plaintiff. There could also be factors that may override the plaintiff’s claim of serious injury such as: gap in the treatment, intervening medical problem, or a pre-existing condition which interrupted the chain of causation between the accident and the claimed injury.

The Court ruled that the plaintiff must demonstrate through competent, objective evidence, a “medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature” which would have been caused the alleged limitations on the plaintiff’s daily activities. This is required in order for the “medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents a person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitutes such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred and eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment” clause.

In determining if the plaintiff is entitled to receive damages based on said clause, it is a must that the evaluation has an objective basis and the evaluation compares the plaintiff’s limitation to the normal function, purpose and use of the injured body organ, member function or system.

The Court ruled that the defendant in this case has established a prima facie case that the plaintiff did not sustain a serious injury within the categories of permanent loss of a body organ, member, function or system, a significant limitation of the use of a body function or system and a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevented a person from normally performing his daily activities. The plaintiff failed to provide proof of the extent of the damage or injury brought to him by the incident. Also, the evidence revealed that the plaintiff has formerly experienced a motor vehicle accident which has contributed to his present state.

On the other hand, the plaintiff failed to raise the issue of fact through objective medical evidence or any other type of evidence.

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Compensation depends on the severity of the injury

February 20, 2013,

As described in the Appellate Court’s prior opinion, the complainant woman had two industrial accidents while she was working for the Paint Company before she was involved in an automobile accident that had nothing to do with work. Originally, the judge of compensation claims denied all benefits on the theory that the third (non-compensable) accident was the major contributing cause of her injuries and disability. The Manhattan Appellate Court reversed and remanded, holding that the claimant is entitled to any medical or compensation benefits attributable to either or both of the work-related accidents.

On remand, a successor judge of compensation claims found that the woman's head injury and jaw condition were causally related solely to the first industrial accident, that her cervical and thoracic spinal injuries were related to all three accidents, and that her lumbar spinal condition was wholly unrelated to the first accident, but attributable equally to the second and third accidents. On the basis of competent, substantial evidence, the judge of compensation claims attributed two-thirds of the woman's need for treatment of her cervical spine, thoracic spine, and psychiatric problems to the industrial accidents.

The Staten Island employer of a claimant who suffers an industrial injury must furnish to the employee such medically necessary remedial treatment, care, and attendance for such period as the nature of the injury or the process of recovery may require. Medical care is properly awarded when the need for such care arises from the combined effect of industrial and nonindustrial conditions. As indicated, the employer is responsible for treatment required by the non-compensable injury if such treatment would not presently be required but for the existence of the compensable injury. The Appellate Court thus approves the approach the judge of compensation claims took on the medical benefits questions, and most of the results he reached.

But the order under review also made the Paint Company responsible for half of the expense of treating the woman’s lower back or lumbar spine injury. While competent, substantial evidence supports the finding that she did not sustain a lumbar spinal injury in the first car accident the record lacks competent, substantial evidence supporting the decision to allocate responsibility for treatment of that injury is fifty-fifty. Such an allocation is not justified simply because the need for treatment was causally related both to the second and to the third accidents. None of the doctors whose opinions the judge of compensation claims cites in support of a fifty-fifty split stated that the second and third accidents were equally responsible for the condition of the woman’s lumbar spine.

The woman also contends that the judge of compensation claims erred in denying her claims for treatment with a neuropsychologist and with a separate, pain management specialist. The order provides that the authorization of a pain management physician is deferred until the claimant resumes treatment with authorized neurosurgeon, and the suggested treatment is deemed to be reasonable and medically necessary. It further provides that the authorization for care and treatment of the claimant's neuropsychological condition is deferred until the claimant resumes treatment with the authorized psychiatrist and suggested neuropsychological treatment, is deemed to be reasonable and medically necessary.
A judge of compensation claims has no authority to delegate the decision of claims pending before him to medical providers, to delay decision indefinitely, or, in a final order, to defer to opinions not yet offered.

The judge of compensation claims found that the woman was entitled to temporary partial disability benefits from the April 30, 1996 accident until she reached statutory maximum medical improvement on May 1, 1998, and to permanent total disability benefits thereafter. He then ruled that she was entitled to only two-thirds of the normal indemnity benefits, holding that entitlement to a third of the benefits otherwise due was carved out by the non-compensable accident. This analysis was erroneous.

If a subsequent non-compensable accident superimposes an injury on a compensable condition, the disability resulting solely from the subsequent accident is not compensable. As to temporary indemnity benefits, the question that should have been addressed on remand—and must now be addressed on a second remand—is whether the woman's disability attributable to the industrial accidents would have rendered her (partially or totally) unemployable, without regard to the effects of the third accident.

An employer is not entitled to receive a windfall when some misfortune unrelated to work befalls an industrially injured employee and prevents his working, if a prior industrial accident would otherwise have entitled the employee to workers' compensation benefits.
Similarly, as to permanent indemnity benefits, the judge of compensation claims must decide on remand whether the woman's disability attributable to the industrial accidents would have rendered her totally and permanently disabled even if the third accident had never occurred. An evidentiary issue is presented as to what portion of the disability is caused by the compensable accident, even where the non-compensable condition is independently a sufficient producing cause of claimant's total disability. The question is whether she was or would have become totally disabled in the absence of the non-work-related accident.

Accordingly, all awards of indemnity benefits and any award of medical benefits that pertain specifically to the lower back or lumbar spine are reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings on those claims. The order is otherwise affirmed.

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Accident Occurs on Southern State Parkway

February 17, 2013,

This is an action to recover damages for serious personal injuries allegedly sustained by plaintiff as a result of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on Route 109 at or near the overpass of the Southern State Parkway, County of Suffolk, New York on March 9, 2005. Plaintiff claims in his complaint that he sustained serious permanent injuries as defined in Section 5102 (d) of the Insurance Law and economic loss greater than basic economic loss, as defined in Section 5102 (a) of the Insurance Law. A Lawyer said that, defendants now move for an order pursuant to CPLR 3212 granting them summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the grounds that plaintiff did not sustain a "serious injury" as defined in Insurance Law § 5102 (d). Plaintiff cross moves for partial summary judgment on liability grounds and for an inquest as to the assessment of damages. Plaintiff opposes defendants' motion, and defendants have filed a reply.

A source said that, in support of this motion defendants submit, the pleadings; the plaintiff's verified bill of particulars; plaintiff's Hospital emergency department records, including x-ray reports of plaintiff's cervical and thoracic spine; the affirmed report of defendant's examining neurologist,; the affirmed report of defendant's examining radiologist,; the affirmed report of defendant's examining orthopedist,; plaintiff's employment verification records dated March 1, 2006; and plaintiff's deposition testimony.

A Spine Injury Lawyer said that, plaintiff claims in his verified bill of particulars that he sustained, among other things, disc bulges of the cervical spine injury and ventral cord abutment; a limited range of motion of the cervical spine injury; weakness in the upper extremities; and lumbar radicular dysfunction. Plaintiff also claims that he sustained scarring, anxiety and mental suffering. Additionally, plaintiff claims that he was totally disabled for about three weeks and that he remains partially disabled to date. Lastly, plaintiff claims that he sustained a serious injury in the categories of a permanent loss of use, a permanent consequential limitation, a significant limitation and a non-permanent injury.

Plaintiff's Hospital emergency department records for treatment rendered on the day of the accident show that he complained of pain in his neck and upper back. X-rays of plaintiff's cervical and thoracic spine performed at the hospital that day show no signs of fracture, dislocation, significant subluxation, or soft tissue abnormalities. The hospital radiologist opined that x-rays of plaintiffs thoracic spine taken that day showed mild degenerative changes and minimal biconcave scoliosis of the lower-thoracic-upper lumbar spine. Based on these findings, the attending physician diagnosed plaintiff with neck/back pain, but also found that there were no injuries to his head, shoulder, arm or leg. In his report dated August 30, 2006, the neurologist doctor states that he performed an independent neurological examination of plaintiff, and his findings include a motor examination that was "5/5" in all extremities with normal tone; DTR's that were "2 +" and symmetrical; an intact sensory examination; and a normal gait. The doctor opined that plaintiff had sustained sprains of the cervical and thoracic spine injury, but that there were no objective findings to indicate a neurological disability. He also concluded that plaintiff had a pre-existing history of a degenerative condition of the spine. In his report dated October 23, 2006, the orthopedic doctor states that he performed an independent orthopedic examination of plaintiff on that date, and his findings include no muscle atrophy; a negative straight leg raising test; and motor strength that was "5/5." His testing also showed a normal range of motion of the cervical spine, thoracic spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands as well as no tenderness, heat, swelling, erythema or effusion of the upper or lower extremities. Additionally, he noted that plaintiff’s medical history included a prior neck and back injury. He opined that plaintiff had sustained sprains on the cervical and lumbar spine which exacerbated pre-existing injuries.

A Suffolk Spine Injury Lawyer said that, plaintiff Employment Verification records show that he was employed continuously with the from April 20, 1998 until the date of the verification, March 1, 2006. These records also show that plaintiff was paid in full from an LIRR sick bank from March 11, 2005 through to March 15, 2005, and from March 21, 2005 through to March 31, 2005, and that he worked on March 16 and April 1, 2005. Plaintiff testified that he was employed on a full-time basis as a plumber at the time of the accident. His duties included maintaining the plumbing systems at different stations and outlying buildings. He went to work the Friday after the accident, but he was sent home after a few hours. In total, he missed approximately three weeks of work as a result of his personal injuries. Upon his return, he performed the same duties as before, except that he was unable to lift heavy equipment or materials. He also has difficulty gardening and engaging in various sporting activities such as waterskiing. In addition, he restricts himself to a 40-hour week and has turned down available overtime since the accident. Plaintiff further testified that he was injured in a prior motor vehicle accident about 20 to 25 years ago, at which time he received some chiropractic treatment to his back.

The issue in this case is whether plaintiff sustained serious injury as defined under the Insurance Law.

Insurance Law § 5102 (d) defines "serious injury" as "a personal 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 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."
The Court said that, in order to recover under the "permanent loss of use" category, plaintiff must demonstrate a total loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system. To prove the extent or degree of physical limitation with respect to the "permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member" or a "significant limitation of use of a body function or system" categories, either a specific percentage of the loss of range of motion must be ascribed or there must be a sufficient description of the "qualitative nature" of plaintiff's limitations, with an objective basis, correlating plaintiff's limitations to the normal function, purpose and use of the body part. A minor, mild or slight limitation of use is considered insignificant within the meaning of the statute.

It is for the Court to determine in the first instance whether a prima facie showing of "serious injury" has been made out. The initial burden is on the defendant "to present evidence, in competent form, showing that the plaintiff has no cause of action". Once defendant has met the burden, plaintiff must then, by competent proof, establish a prima facie case that such serious injury exists. Such proof, in order to be in a competent or admissible form, shall consist of affidavits or affirmations. The proof must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, here, the plaintiff.

By their submissions, the Court held that the defendants made a prima facie showing that plaintiff did not sustain a serious injury. Defendants' examining orthopedist found, upon a recent examination, that plaintiff had a normal range of motion of the upper extremities with no atrophy. Similarly, defendants' examining neurologist, round, upon a recent examination, that plaintiff had normal range of motion of the cervical and lumbar spine, with no paravertebral tenderness or spasm. Furthermore, defendants' examining radiologist opined, based upon his review of plaintiff's MRI studies, that plaintiff had a multilevel preexisting degenerative condition of the cervical spine, but that there was no evidence of any causally related injuries. Defendants remaining evidence, including plaintiff's deposition testimony, also supports a finding that he did not sustain a serious injury. As defendants have met his burden as to all categories of serious injury alleged by plaintiff, the Court turns to plaintiff's proffer.

In opposition to this motion, plaintiff submits, among other things, the unaffirmed report of plaintiff's treating radiologist; and the affirmed report of plaintiffs treating osteopath. Initially, the unsworn report of the doctor that was discussed in detail by defendant's examining orthopedist has been considered as it is admissible. In his report, the doctor states that he performed MRI studies of plaintiff’s cervical spine, and his findings include straightening of cervical lordosis; diffuse disc dehydration; and posterior disc bulges. While he observed a ventral cord abutment at C-4/5 through C-6/7, he also noted that there were no significant protrusions into the neural canal, recesses or foramina. He opined that these studies showed no focal prevertebral or posterior paraspinal abnormal masses.

The Court held that, plaintiff has provided insufficient medical proof to raise an issue of fact that he sustained a serious injury under the no-fault. Initially, it is noted that plaintiff failed to submit any medical proof addressing his prior neck/back injuries as well as his condition relative to thereto. In this regard, the doctor failed to indicate awareness that plaintiff had previously injured his neck/back, therefore, any conclusion on his part that plaintiff's claimed injuries were causally related to the subject incident was mere speculation. The doctor also failed to adequately address the preexisting degenerative condition of plaintiff’s cervical spine as diagnosed by his own treating radiologist only two months after the accident, as he did not provide a sufficient foundation or objective medical basis supporting the conclusion which he reached, namely, that the alleged conditions were causally related to or exacerbated by the accident. Further, while the doctor records plaintiffs complaints of pain, he has failed to present medical proof that was contemporaneous with the accident showing any initial range of motion restrictions for the affected body parts. Additionally, the report of the doctor tends to show that plaintiffs injuries, which consisted of a cervical and thoracic sprains/strains and myofascial derangements, were mild, minor or slight. In any event, the doctor has not adequately explained the approximate 14-month gap in treatment between the conclusion of plaintiffs last exam on March 30, 2006 and his most recent examination of plaintiff in May 3, 2007, shortly after the filing of defendants' motion. Thus, plaintiff’s unexplained gap in medical treatment was in essence, a cessation of treatment that is not addressed by competent proof. Additionally, the proof submitted by the plaintiff is insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact.

Moreover, since there is no evidence in the record demonstrating that plaintiff's alleged economic loss exceeded the statutory amount of basic economic loss, his claim in this regard must be dismissed. Accordingly, the Court held that this motion for summary judgment is granted and plaintiff's cross motion is denied as moot.

Continue reading "Accident Occurs on Southern State Parkway" »

Traffic Light in Question in Huntington

February 13, 2013,

This action is for personal injuries alleged to have occurred as a result of a motor vehicle accident involving vehicles driven by plaintiff, , and defendant, , on February 19, 2002, at the intersection of Deepdale Drive and New York Avenue, Town of Huntington, New York. A Suffolk reporter said that, plaintiff served a summons and complaint on defendant. Thereafter, defendant served a third-party summons and complaint on third-party defendant. Within the third-party complaint, defendant alleged that the traffic light at the subject intersection was malfunctioning and inoperable at the time of the car accident.

A doctor said that, by order dated April 1, 2005, the third-party defendant was granted summary judgment dismissing the third-party complaint and all cross-claims against it. Within the aforementioned Order, the Court noted that during the discovery process, it was revealed that the town, not the County of Suffolk, "owned operated and controlled" the traffic signal at the subject intersection. A Lawyer said that, by Order dated March 23, 2007, this Court granted the summary judgment motions of second third-party defendant, and third-party defendant, on the grounds that there was no issue of material fact regarding the liability of those defendants. Defendant now moves for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff has not met the serious injury threshold as set forth in Insurance Law § 5102(d). In support thereof, defendant has submitted, among other things, the deposition transcript of plaintiff, and reports from two doctors who conducted independent medical examinations of plaintiff.

A Lawyer said that, plaintiff served a verified bill of particulars, sworn to on December 11, 2003, which alleged that she suffered the following injuries as a result of the accident: sprain and contusion of left hip; pain in left hip; pain in left wrist; and injuries to the cervical spine, including spinal nerve root compression and bulging discs. Each injury, except for superficial ones, was alleged to be permanent and/or long lasting, and caused diminution of use and motion of the neck and back. Plaintiff appeared for a deposition, and was thereafter physically examined, on or about October 25, 2006, by an orthopedist, and a neurologist, both of whom were designated by defendant. After conducting objective tests on plaintiff, the doctors found, as indicated by their sworn reports, that plaintiff had no orthopedic impairment and no neurologic injury. The orthopedist found that plaintiff may perform the daily activities of living, without restriction, and the neurologist found no permanency or disability as a result of the subject accident. Based upon these findings, a source said that defendant argues that plaintiff has not satisfied the "serious injury" threshold, as set forth in Insurance Law § 5102(d). Defendant contends that plaintiff's alleged soft tissue spinal injuries do not constitute a serious injury.

The issue in this case is whether plaintiff sustained serious injury as defined under the Insurance Law.

The Court held that, New York's No-Fault Insurance Law precludes recovery for any "noneconomic loss, except in the case of serious injury, or for basic economic loss" arising out of the negligent use or operation of a motor vehicle. As recognized by the Court of Appeals, the "legislative intent underlying the No-Fault Law was to weed out frivolous claims and limit recovery to significant injuries". The Legislature also intended that the issue of whether a plaintiff sustained a "serious injury" could be determined by the courts as a matter of law on a motion for summary judgment.

The Court cited the provisions of the Insurance Law § 5102(d) defines "serious injury" as "a personal 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 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".

To establish a permanent consequential limitation or a significant limitation of use, the medical evidence submitted by a plaintiff must include objective, quantitative evidence with respect to diminished range of motion or a qualitative assessment, based on objective findings, comparing the plaintiff's present limitations to the normal function, purpose and use of the affected body, organ, member or function. "Whether a limitation of use or function is 'significant' or 'consequential' relates to medical significance and involves a comparative determination of the degree or qualitative nature of an injury based on the normal function, purpose and use of the body part". A minor, mild or slight limitation of use is considered insignificant within the meaning of the statute. Further, subjective claims of pain and limitation of movement must be verified by objective medical findings that are based on a recent examination of the plaintiff.

The Court said that, a movant seeking summary judgment on the ground that a plaintiff's negligence claim is barred under the No-Fault Insurance Law bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case that the plaintiff did not sustain a "serious injury". Once a movant meets this burden, the plaintiff must present proof in admissible form showing that a serious injury exists or demonstrate an acceptable excuse for failing to meet the requirement of tender in admissible form.

In the case at bar, the Court finds that defendant's submissions were sufficient to establish that plaintiff did not sustain serious injury to her back, left hip or left wrist as a result of the accident. The burden, therefore, shifted to plaintiff to raise a triable issue of fact, and she failed to present competent medical evidence substantiating her claim that her spinal injuries caused a permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member, or a significant limitation of use of a body function or system. While under certain circumstances a herniated disc may constitute a serious injury within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102(d), plaintiff failed to provide any objective evidence of the extent or degree of the alleged physical limitations resulting from the disc injury and its duration. Furthermore, plaintiff did not provide any recent medical evidence in opposition to the instant application; instead, plaintiff merely provided unsworn reports and records from the physicians who examined and treated plaintiff in the months following the accident in February of 2002. Such submissions were insufficient to rebut defendant's prima facie showing of no serious injury.

Accordingly, the Court held that the motion by defendant for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that plaintiff has failed to sustain a "serious injury" as that term is defined by Insurance Law § 5102(d), is granted.

Continue reading "Traffic Light in Question in Huntington" »

Taxi Involved in Car Accident

February 10, 2013,

This action was instituted by the plaintiff for alleged personal injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident occurring on January 27, 2003 at approximately 12.21 a.m. on Barton Avenue at or near its intersection with Valley Road in Patchogue, Suffolk County on Long Island, New York. A source said that, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant taxi company, being driven by co-defendant, attempted to make a left turn from Barton Avenue, eastbound, onto Valley Road without signaling and came into contact with the plaintiff's vehicle which was proceeding straight on Barton Avenue in a westerly direction. The plaintiff claims she hit the steering wheel and was bleeding from her left knee. This lawsuit thereafter ensued.

A Lawyer said that, the defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to CPLR §3212 dismissing the plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that the plaintiff has not sustained a "serious physical injury" as that term is defined in Insurance Law §5102(d). The defendants submit medical proof to substantiate their claim that the plaintiff failed to sustain a "serious injury" in the car accident. The plaintiff opposes the requested relief in an attorney's affirmation arid submission of the plaintiff's deposition but proffers no medical proof to substantiate the claim of a "serious physical injury".The issue in this case is whether plaintiff sustained serious personal injury as defined under the Insurance Law.

The function of the Court on a motion for summary judgment is issue finding not issue determination. It is a most drastic remedy which should not be granted where there is any doubt as to the existence of a triable issue or where the issue is even arguable. To grant summary judgment it must clearly appear that no material and triable issue of fact is presented. This drastic remedy should not be granted where there is any doubt as to the existence of such issues, or where the issue is `arguable; `issue finding, rather than issue determination is the key to the procedure.

Although the question of the existence of a "serious injury" is often left to the jury, where properly raised, the issue of whether a plaintiff is barred from recovery in a judicial forum for want of a "serious injury" is, in the first instance, for the Court's determination. If it can be said, as a matter of law, that plaintiff suffered no serious injury within the meaning of the Insurance Law, then plaintiff has no claim to assert and there is nothing for the jury to decide.
Section 5104 of the Insurance Law provides that an individual injured in an automobile accident may bring a negligence cause of action only upon a showing that the individual has incurred a "serious injury" within the meaning of the no-fault law. Insurance Law §5102(d) defines "serious injury" as a personal injury which results in death; dismemberment, significant disfigurement and 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 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.

A defendant can establish that a plaintiff's personal injuries are not serious within the meaning of Insurance Law §5102 (d) by submitting the affidavits or affirmations of medical experts who examined the plaintiff and concluded that no objective medical findings support the plaintiff's claim. With this established, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to come forward with admissible evidence to overcome the defendants' submissions by demonstrating a triable issue of fact that a serious injury was sustained within the meaning of the Insurance Law. In this situation, the plaintiff must present objective medical evidence of the injury based upon a recent examination of the plaintiff. However, the plaintiff does not provide any medical documentation even though confronted by the defendants with three medical experts attesting to their examination of the plaintiff and their findings that plaintiff suffers from no significant limitation of use of a body function or system or permanent consequential limitation of movement or use of a body member.

Furthermore, the New York Court of Appeals has stated that a sufficiently described opinion by a doctor on the "qualitative nature of the plaintiff's limitations based upon the normal function, purpose and use" of that body part is sufficient even without specific degrees of limitation or an arbitrary cutoff of degree. However, the Court of Appeals went on to state that a diagnosis of a bulging or herniated disc, by itself, does not constitute a serious physical injury and the plaintiff must provide objective evidence of the extent and degree of any alleged physical limitation resulting from the spinal injuries, the duration and causality to any limitation of motion.

Generally a soft tissue injury with cervical and low back sprain does not meet the threshold for serious spinal injury. These were the types of injuries which the legislature hoped would no longer burden the court system under the no-fault scheme. Neither are subjective complaints of transitory pain due to cervical and lumbar sprains sufficient. Here, in the case at bar, the defendants present the affirmation of the doctor who conducted a neurological medical examination and found no neurological disability and normal range of motion tests; an orthopedic medical evaluation of the plaintiff by the doctor who found no permanent or residual injuries and who found no limitations of movements on the tests conducted and set forth in his medical report; and an affirmed radiological medical examination by the radiologist who found normal spinal alignment and no injury causally related to the accident. The Court finds that the defendants have met their burden of proof by the reports and affirmations of the medical authorities submitted on this motion.

At that point, supported by objective testing, it was incumbent upon the plaintiff to produce competent medical testimony and evidence showing that she sustained a serious physical injury. Plaintiff has failed to so assemble any competent medical proof to refute the defendants' medical findings of no serious injury. The plaintiff has failed to substantiate a permanent or serious physical injury with an objective test or finding. The proof adduced by the plaintiff relies upon unsupported conclusions by the plaintiff's attorney in his affirmation and the plaintiff's deposition testimony. Plaintiff's conclusory statements of undifferentiated pain and discomfort and range of motion restrictions, standing alone, without objective testing results or degrees of limitation is fatal to her complaint. She fails to raise a factual issue requiring a denial of the defendants' motion.

Here, in the case at bar, the Court is confronted with soft tissue injuries and subjective complaints of pain by the plaintiff in conclusory fashion only. The defendants detail the medical reports by the defendants' doctors suggesting no restrictions of movement or range of motion or any other pathology to support an injury. Clearly, the failure to submit some medical authority to support the plaintiff's subjective complaints of pain is fatal to her opposition to the defendants' motion and supports summary disposition and dismissal of the action.

Accordingly, under the facts and circumstances as presented in this case and after reviewing the deposition of plaintiff and the defendant, all the medical exhibits submitted in support of the motion and none being offered in opposition thereto, the Court concludes that the plaintiff has failed, as a matter of law, to establish the threshold of sustaining a serious physical injury or any causal relationship with the motor vehicle accident occurring on January 27, 2003. A review of the medical submissions has failed to raise a triable issue of fact that the plaintiff sustained a serious physical injury and therefore, the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissal of the plaintiff's action pursuant to CPLR §3212 is hereby granted and the plaintiff's action is dismissed.

Continue reading "Taxi Involved in Car Accident" »

Accident at Jewel Avenue

February 6, 2013,

This action arises from a motor vehicle accident which occurred on September 19, 2008, at approximately 5:30 p.m., in the eastbound lanes of the Grand Central Parkway, Queens, New York, at or near its intersection with the Jewel Avenue Exit. The accident involved a 2005 Porche Boxster owned and operated by plaintiff and a 1986 Volvo Station Wagon owned by defendant and operated by defendant driver. Plaintiffs commenced this action by the filing and service of a Summons and Verified Complaint.

A source said that, it is plaintiff’s contention that the accident occurred when his vehicle, moving slowly in stop and go traffic on the Grand Central Parkway, was struck in the rear by defendants' vehicle. Plaintiff claims that defendant driver admitted at his Examination Before Trial ("EBT") that he did not see plaintiff’s vehicle until the moment of collision and offered no explanation for said collision other than his failure to pay attention to the road. Plaintiff claims that defendant driver was the negligent party in that he failed his duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances to avoid an accident. Plaintiff additionally claims that defendant driver cannot come up with a non-negligent explanation for striking plaintiff vehicle in the rear.

A Lawyer said that, in opposition to plaintiffs' motion, defendants argue that, at his EBT, defendant driver testified that there were no brake lights illuminated on plaintiff’s vehicle just before the accident. Plaintiff submits that there is therefore an issue of fact as to the circumstances surrounding the accident and plaintiff’s motion should be denied. Defendants assert that a factual issue remains as to the extent that plaintiff’s comparative fault contributed to the happening of the subject accident by virtue of his failure to exercise ordinary prudence and to use such care to avoid the collision as an ordinarily prudent person would have under the circumstances.

A doctor said that, defendants move, pursuant to CPLR § 3212 and Article 51 of the Insurance Law of the State of New York, for an order granting them summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff did not sustain a "serious injury" in the subject accident as defined by New York State Insurance Law § 5102(d). Plaintiff opposed defendants' motion. Plaintiff moved pursuant to CPLR § 3212, for an order granting partial summary judgment as to the liability against defendants. Defendants oppose the motion.

The issue in this case is whether defendants’ motion for summary judgment should be granted on the ground that plaintiff did not sustained serious injury in the subject accident as defined by New York State Insurance Law.

The Court said that, it is well settled that the proponent of a motion for summary judgment must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by providing sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of material issues of fact. To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must establish its claim or defense by tendering sufficient evidentiary proof, in admissible form, sufficient to warrant the court, as a matter of law, to direct judgment in the movant's favor. Such evidence may include deposition transcripts, as well as other proof annexed to an attorney's affirmation. If a sufficient prima facie showing is demonstrated, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with competent evidence to demonstrate the existence of a material issue of fact, the existence of which necessarily precludes the granting of summary judgment and necessitates a trial. When considering a motion for summary judgment, the function of the court is not to resolve issues but rather to determine if any such material issues of fact exist. Mere conclusions or unsubstantiated allegations are insufficient to raise a triable issue. Further, to grant summary judgment, it must clearly appear that no material triable issue of fact is presented. The burden on the Court in deciding this type of motion is not to resolve issues of fact or determine matters of credibility, but merely to determine whether such issues exist. It is the existence of an issue, not its relative strength that is the critical and controlling consideration. The evidence should be construed in a light most favorable to the party moved against.

When the driver of an automobile approaches another automobile from the rear, he or she is bound to maintain a reasonably safe rate of speed and control over his or her vehicle and to exercise reasonable care to avoid colliding with the other vehicle pursuant to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law ("VTL") § 1129(a). A rear end collision with a stopped vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the operator of the offending vehicle. Such a collision imposes a duty of explanation on the operator. Of course, in a rear-end collision, the front most driver has the duty not to stop suddenly or slow down without proper signaling, pursuant to VTL § 1163, so as to avoid a collision.

As noted, a rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a prima facie case of liability with respect to the operator of the rearmost vehicle, thereby requiring the operator to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a non-negligent explanation for the collision. Vehicle stops which are foreseeable under the prevailing traffic conditions, even if sudden and frequent, must be anticipated by the driver who follows, since the following driver is under a duty to maintain a safe distance between his or her car and the car ahead. Drivers must maintain safe distances between their cars and the cars in front of them and this rule imposes on them a duty to be aware of traffic conditions including stopped vehicles. Drivers have a duty to see what should be seen and to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances to avoid an accident.

Plaintiff, in his motion, has demonstrated prima facie entitlement to summary judgment on the issue of liability against defendants. Therefore, the burden shifts to defendants to demonstrate an issue of fact which precludes summary judgment. After applying the law to the facts in this case, the Court finds that defendants have failed to meet their burden to demonstrate an issue of fact which precludes summary judgment. Defendants failed to submit any evidence to establish a non-negligent explanation for striking plaintiff Deutsch's vehicle in the rear.
Therefore, based upon the foregoing, plaintiffs' motion, pursuant to CPLR § 3212, for an order granting partial summary judgment as to the liability against defendants is hereby granted.
The Court will now address defendants' threshold motion. As a result of the subject accident described above, plaintiff claims that he sustained the following injuries: Cervical Disc Herniation and/or Displacement; C2-3 broad based central disc herniation tangent with the thecal sac; C3-4 disc bulging; C5-6 disc bulging;

C4-5 central disc herniation indenting the thecal sac narrowing both lateral recesses; C6-7 disc bulging indenting the thecal sac; C7-T1 central focal disc herniation indenting the thecal sac; Torticollis; Limitations to cervical range of motion; Muscle spasm & guarding - bilateral upper trapezius muscles; Muscle spasm & guarding - central paraspinal muscles; Cervicalgia.
Within the particular context of a threshold motion which seeks dismissal of a personal injury complaint, the movant bears a specific burden of establishing that the plaintiff did not sustain a "serious injury" as enumerated in Article 51 of the Insurance Law § 5102(d). Upon such a showing, it becomes incumbent upon the non-moving party to come forth with sufficient evidence in admissible form to raise an issue of fact as to the existence of a "serious injury."
In support of a claim that the plaintiff has not sustained a serious injury, the defendant may rely either on the sworn statements of the defendant's examining physicians or the unsworn reports of the plaintiff's examining physicians. However, unlike the movant's proof, unsworn reports of the plaintiff’s examining doctors or chiropractors are not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Essentially, in order to satisfy the statutory serious injury threshold, the legislature requires objective proof of a plaintiff's injury. The Court said that a plaintiff's proof of injury must be supported by objective medical evidence, such as sworn MRI and CT scan tests. However, these sworn tests must be paired with the doctor's observations during the physical examination of the plaintiff. Unsworn MRI reports can also constitute competent evidence if both sides rely on those reports.

Conversely, even where there is ample proof of a plaintiff's injury, certain factors may nonetheless override a plaintiff's objective medical proof of limitations and permit dismissal of a plaintiff's complaint. Specifically, additional contributing factors such as a gap in treatment, an intervening medical problem or a pre-existing condition would interrupt the chain of causation between the accident and the claimed injury.

In the case at bar, laintiff claims that, as a consequence of the above described automobile accident, he has sustained serious injuries as defined in § 5102(d) of the New York State Insurance Law and which fall within the following statutory categories of injuries:
1) a permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; (Category 7)
2) a significant limitation of use of a body function or system; (Category 8)
3) 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 ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment. (Category 9).

To meet the threshold regarding significant limitation of use of a body function or system or permanent consequential limitation of a body function or system, the law requires that the limitation be more than minor, mild or slight and that the claim be supported by medical proof based upon credible medical evidence of an objectively measured and quantified medical injury or condition. A minor, mild or slight limitation will be deemed insignificant within the meaning of the statute. A claim raised under the "permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member" or "significant limitation of use of a body function or system" categories can be made by an expert's designation of a numeric percentage of a plaintiff's loss of motion in order to prove the extent or degree of the physical limitation. In addition, an expert's qualitative assessment of a plaintiff's condition is also probative, provided: (1) the evaluation has an objective basis and (2) the evaluation compares the plaintiff's limitation to the normal function, purpose and use of the affected body organ, member, function or system.
Finally, to prevail under the "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 ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment" category, a plaintiff must demonstrate through competent, objective proof, a "medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature" "which would have caused the alleged limitations on the plaintiff's daily activities." A curtailment of the plaintiff's usual activities must be "to a great extent rather than some slight curtailment." Under this category specifically, a gap or cessation in treatment is irrelevant in determining whether the plaintiff qualifies.

With these guidelines in mind, the Court will now turn to the merits of defendants' motion. In support of their motion, defendants submit the pleadings, plaintiffs' Verified Bill of Particulars, the transcript of plaintiff EBT testimony, the affirmed report of the doctor, who performed an independent orthopedic medical examination of plaintiff, the affirmed report of the doctor, who reviewed plaintiff’s cervical spine MRI and the Health Insurance Claim forms submitted by plaintiff’s treating providers.

Defendants first assert that plaintiff’s admissions in his EBT testimony regarding the minimal treatment he received after the subject accident is evidence that he failed to sustain a "serious injury" as a result of said accident. Defendants state that "plaintiff testified that he did not tell the police he was injured, request an ambulance or go to a hospital after the accident. The first time he sought medical treatment was three or four days after the accident. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, conducted an examination of plaintiff on July 8, 2011. Said examination included an evaluation of plaintiff’s cervical spine and upper extremities. Range of motion testing, conducted by way of a goniometer, revealed normal findings. Based upon his clinical findings and medical record reviews, orthopedic surgeon diagnosed plaintiff with "cervical strain - resolved with preexisting degenerative changes." The doctor’s ultimate diagnosis of plaintiff was that "claimant is a 59-year-old male who alleges an injury of 09/18/08 as a seat belted driver. His prognosis is excellent. Currently, he shows no signs or symptoms of permanence relative to the musculoskeletal system and relative to the accident. He is currently not disabled. He is capable of his full time, full duty work as a real estate broker without restrictions. He is capable of his activities of daily living. He is capable of all pre-loss activities."

With respect to plaintiffs' 90/180 claim, defendants submit that plaintiff’s admissions at his EBT establish that he did not sustain an injury that prevented him from performing substantially all of the material acts that constituted his customary daily activities for at least 90 days of the 180 days immediately after the accident. Plaintiff testified that, at the time of the accident, he was employed as a real estate broker, that he was confined to his bed for two days and his home for a couple of weeks after the accident and the week after the accident he started doing work in his house. In addition, he quit that job to start his own business two years ago and worked 60-70 hours a week as he did before at Prudential. Furthermore, plaintiff is not claiming he was disabled for doing his normal activities for three months out of the first six months after the accident. Defendants also argue that the Health Insurance Claims forms submitted by plaintiff’s treating providers are further evidence that he did not sustain an injury which prevented him from working after the subject accident.

Based upon this evidence, the Court finds that defendants have established a prima facie case that plaintiff did not sustain serious injuries within the meaning of New York State Insurance Law § 5102(d).

The burden now shifts to plaintiffs to come forward with evidence to overcome defendants' submissions by demonstrating the existence of a triable issue of fact that serious injuries were sustained. To support his burden, plaintiff submits his Affidavit and that of his doctors. Plaintiff argues that the Affidavits of his physicians raise issues of fact as would preclude summary judgment. Plaintiff also submitted the certified medical reports of his doctor in support of their opposition to defendants' motion.

As previously stated, even where there is ample proof of a plaintiff's spinal injury, certain factors may nonetheless override a plaintiff's objective medical proof of limitations and permit dismissal of a plaintiff's complaint. Specifically, additional contributing factors such as a gap in treatment, an intervening medical problem or a pre-existing condition would interrupt the chain of causation between the accident and the claimed injury. The Court finds that neither plaintiff nor his doctors adequately explained the cessation of plaintiff’s treatment after the accident.

Consequently, as plaintiff had an approximately two year gap in treatment and failed to adequately explain said cessation of treatment, the Court finds that these factors override plaintiff’s objective medical proof of limitations and permits dismissal of plaintiff’s Verified Complaint.

Additionally, plaintiff’s treating chiropractor failed to address the findings of defendants' radiologist, with respect to degeneration, and thus failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Furthermore, plaintiff’s subjective complaints of pain, without more, are insufficient to satisfy the burden of establishing a serious injury. Finally, plaintiff’s deposition testimony does not establish that he was unable to perform substantially all of the material acts which constitute his usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury. Further, no where do plaintiffs claim that, as a result of plaintiff Deutsch's alleged injuries, he was "medically" impaired from performing any of his daily activities or that he was curtailed "to a great extent rather than some slight curtailment.".

Based on the above, the Court finds that plaintiff have failed to establish by competent medical proof that he sustained a "permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member," a "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 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."

Accordingly, the Court held that defendants' motion, pursuant to CPLR § 3212 and Article 51 of the Insurance Law of the State of New York, for an order granting them summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff Deutsch did not sustain a "serious injury" in the subject accident as defined by New York State Insurance Law § 5102(d) is hereby granted and plaintiffs' Verified Complaint is dismissed in its entirety.

Continue reading "Accident at Jewel Avenue" »

Iron Works Company in Traffic Accident

February 2, 2013,

Two construction and repair crewmen from the water district were riding in the car of a co-worker on their way to work when their car was hit in the rear end by a truck driven by an employee of an iron works company.

Both the Bronx crewmen were injured. The other crewman, the one sitting in the back sustained spinal injury from the force of the impact of the collision. His spinal injury consisted of bulging discs in the cervical spine and in the lumbar spine. Because of these injuries, he suffered painful muscle spasms, migraine headaches and numbness in the right arm and shoulder. He was treated in the hospital and was confined to bed for six weeks following the accident. After the confinement, the crewman could not return to his regular job as repair crewman because he could not lift materials. He had difficulty bending down and he could not sit or stand for long periods of time.

Both the crewmen filed a suit in damages against the two drivers of the motor vehicles involved in the car accident. They both claimed compensation for damages under the Insurance Law for the spinal injuries and fractures they sustained as a result of the accident. The driver from the iron works company filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that the injuries sustained by the crewmen were not serious injuries and so they are not compensable injuries. The L.I. crewman was examined by independent physicians but the physicians examined the crewmen two years after the accident.

A serious injury is one which brings about loss of life or loss of a limb, substantial disfigurement; loss of a fetus or loss of the use of an organ or system. If the injury is not permanent, it should prevent the injured person from performing his usual and customary activities for ninety to one hundred eight days after the accident.

Here the crewman did not allege that he permanently lost the use of any body part. He did prove that the injury he sustained in the accident limited his physical activity. He was not able to do the customary activities or perform the regular work he used to perform prior to the accident. He alleged that his neck and back had limited range of motion after the accident.
The finding of loss of range of motion in the cervical spine and lumbar spine cannot be based on the mere complaints of the crewman. There must be objective medical tests and diagnostic methods used to arrive at the findings of loss of range of motion.

The fact of having limited use of the spine and the fact of the loss of range of motion are both issues of fact which must be proven. There must be documentation by medical professionals who will attach the results of medical tests, x-rays, CT Scans or MRI scans on which they will base their opinions.

The independent physicians who examined the crewman one year after the accident based their opinions on the MRI and CT Scans of the crewman taken at or around the time of the accident. They themselves did not subject the crewman to MRIs or CT Scans. The independent physicians did not even mention in their report that they conducted range of motion tests themselves. They based their own report on the same range of motion tests conducted at or around the time of the accident. The reports of the attending physicians of the crewman stated that he had significant loss of range of motion in his cervical and lumbar spine.
Thus, the defendant iron works company failed to submit admissible and credible proof on its motion alleging that the crewman did not sustain serious injury. The case is remanded for trial to determine the issue of liability for the serious injury.

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Victim is Hospitalized for Thirteen Days

January 30, 2013,

On 12 August 2003, a Staten Island woman, who was insured by a certain insurance company, was involved in a motor vehicle accident. She was driving her van when she made a left turn directly into the path of a motorcycle operated by a certain man. The impact caused the operator of the motorcycle (the victim) to be ejected and landed about nineteen feet away. Thereafter, the Manhattan police and paramedics arrived and the victim was taken to the hospital, and it was determined that he sustained serious injuries. The victim stayed in the hospital for thirteen days, and was later transferred to a nursing home.

After the said incident had occurred, the aforesaid woman immediately reported the car accident to her insurance company. In response, the insurance company assigned someone to handle the claim (the agent), who spoke generally about the accident with the said woman (the insured woman); ascertained that neither the insured nor her daughter, who was in the van with the woman at the time of the accident, was injured; advised her that she had $10,000 coverage limits, that is, $10,000 in property damage coverage and $10,000 in bodily injury coverage; and concluded that the insured was probably at fault in causing the accident. After that, the agent assigned attempted to call the victim, who was still in the hospital, but was unable to reach him. The agent then ordered an appraisal of the victim’s motorcycle and assigned that portion of the damage claim to the insurance company’s claim service center in Virginia.

On 18 August 2003, the insurance agent received a call from an attorney (lawyer-one), who indicated that he was representing the victim. However, ten days later, lawyer-one notified the agent that he was no longer representing the victim and provided him with a notice of his attorney's lien.

On 20 August 2003, the agent obtained the car accident report. The report stated that the woman turned directly in front of the victim who was ejected nineteen feet, and thereby suffered an incapacitating injury. On 26 August 2003, the appraisal of the motorcycle revealed that it was a total loss. Thus, the agent authorized payment of the full $10,000 property damage policy limits. On 29 August 2003, the agent sent the insured woman a certified letter advising her that, because the property damage would exceed her insurance coverage, she was personally exposed to an excess judgment for both property damage and bodily injuries; acknowledged that it was reported to them that the claimant sustained serious bodily injuries, and cautioned that the insurance company will make every effort to resolve the claims within the insurance coverage, but that, due to the serious nature of the accident, it may not be possible; and that under no circumstances will the Claims Service or the insurance company assume responsibility for any claims or judgments in excess of the insurance coverage.

On 9 September 2003, the victim’s new attorney, lawyer-two, sent a letter to the agent asking for the policy information within thirty days, but the insurance company did not provide that information until sixty days later. On 9 October 2003, the agent spoke with the lawyer-two’s paralegal and was informed that the victim sustained a significant spinal cord injury, with several broken bone injuries, among others, and that he might be paralyzed. After this conversation, the agent set the reserves for the bodily injury claim to the full $10,000 policy limit and sent a letter to lawyer-two’s law firm asking for the victim’s medical records and bills stating that they would like to settle the bodily injury claim as soon as possible; informed them of lawyer-one’s lien; and indicated that the said lawyer’s name needed to be on the settlement check. On 19 December 2003, the new lawyer sent medical authorization forms signed by the victim to the agent, but the agent did not order such records, and requested only the hospital records on 13 January 2004, or almost five months after the accident. On 30 January 2004, the agent received the said hospital records. On 4 February 2004, the agent sent a letter to lawyer-two acknowledging the serious injuries the victim suffered and offered to settle the claim contingent upon placing lawyer-one’s name on the settlement check or obtaining an agreement regarding the lien; and that he would be contacting lawyer-one to ascertain whether such lawyer intended to pursue his lien, however, the record does not reflect that the agent ever contacted the first lawyer.

On 5 February 2004, the agent sent a status report to the insured woman informing her that the victim had an extended hospital and nursing home stay due to his serious injuries, which included a spinal cord injury, several broken bone injuries, particularly, vertebrae fractures, rib fractures, along with a punctured lung, and a scalp laceration. The agent advised her that he offered to pay the bodily injury liability limit of $10,000 but cautioned that because of the serious injuries it might be impossible to settle within the policy limits.

On 11 February 2004, the agent sent another letter to lawyer-two identical to the February 4 letter. On 17 February 2004, lawyer-two responded and advised that if and when the policy limits are tendered, he will discuss it with the victim; and that he would be responsible for any alleged lien on the part of lawyer-one. On 2 March 2004, in response to lawyer-two’s February 17 letter, the agent expressed uncertainty as to the word "tender." He thought he had already tendered the policy limits, even though no check had been enclosed, and he again wanted assurance that lawyer-two would be responsible for the payment of any potential attorney's lien. On 8 March 2004, lawyer-two explained that there had not been a tender of policy limits and that, if the agent was unsure of that term, he needed to check it with his legal department; that, due to the catastrophic nature of the victim’s injuries, there should have been a tendering of policy limits; and, yet again, advised the agent that the victim would be responsible for any potential attorney's lien. On 24 March 2004, the agent faxed a copy of lawyer-one’s 28 August 2003 attorney's lien to lawyer-two, and on the cover sheet, he again expressed confusion over the term "tender of policy limits”. On 25 March 2004, he also sent a letter indicating that the insurance company’s offer to settle the victim’s claim is tender of the limits; and that if lawyer-two wanted the settlement check, he would need to put in writing that he would settle the attorney's lien from the proceeds of the check. Lawyer-two responded by insisting that his demand for a tender of policy limits was clear and reiterated that, if the agent needed clarification, he needed to check with his legal department; questioned the potential insignificance of the attorney's lien stating that the value of lawyer-one’s lien is unimaginable considering the period that lawyer-one’s services was engaged, noting that the accident occurred on 12 August 2003 and the letter advising them of the lien is only dated 28 August 2003.

On 1 April 2004, after an almost eight months from the date of the accident, the insurance company formally tendered the policy limits of $10,000. However, by reason of the insurance company’s delay, he already filed suit against the insured woman, as directed by the victim. Lawyer-two was so surprised at how long it took the insurance company to tender the limits especially due to the catastrophic nature of the injuries, noting that the victim would have settled the claim at any point through February.

The victim and his wife filed suit against the insured woman, while the insured woman filed a bad faith claim against the insurance company. Thereafter, a stipulated judgment in excess of the policy limits was entered by agreement among the victim, the victim’s wife, the insured woman, and the insurance company, but it expressly left open the issue of whether the insurance company had acted in bad faith in failing to settle the victim’s claim.

In the bad faith action, the insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment. The insurance company alleged that, as a matter of law, it did not act in bad faith; that it had orally offered to settle for its policy limits within a day of receiving the medical records; thus, final judgment should be entered in its favor. In opposition, the insured woman filed two affidavits, one by a claims-handling expert and the other from an attorney. In the affidavits, it was stated that, based on the low limits of the insured's policy and the potentially catastrophic injuries to the victim, the insurance company should have tendered its policy limits not later than October 2003; that the method of claims handling followed by the insurance company was not appropriate under the circumstances; that the insurance company failed to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation using all sources available to all parties; that the insurance company demonstrated a lack of urgency and lack of concern to its insured; that the insurance company violated its fiduciary duty to its insured by failing to understand the duty to make a tender of policy limits as soon as the adjuster determined it was likely that the value of the claim would exceed the policy limits; that the insurance company breached its duty by refusing to protect the insured until it received medical records documenting the nature and extent of the injuries and requiring written confirmation of those injuries when it already knew of the severity of the injuries; and that the purported attorney's lien should not have been a factor in the settlement considerations. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company. Hence, an appeal followed.

The ultimate issue in this case concerns whether the insurance company acted in bad faith in failing to settle a claim against its insured. On the standard of review in appeals of this case, the trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment is a question of law and is subject to the de novo standard of review. Summary judgment should be granted only when there is a complete absence of genuine issues of material fact. Where material issues of fact which would support a jury finding of bad faith remain in dispute, summary judgment is improper.
Well settled is the rule that an insurance company has an obligation to properly defend its insured from claims that are covered within the policy of insurance and that it must exercise good faith in satisfying that obligation. When defending its insured against a claim, the insurer has a duty to use the same degree of care and diligence as a person of ordinary care and prudence should exercise in the management of his own business. The insurer must investigate the facts, give fair consideration to a settlement offer that is not unreasonable, and settle the claim, if possible, where a reasonably prudent person, faced with the prospect of paying the total recovery, would do so. The question of whether an insurer has acted in bad faith in handling claims against the insured is determined under the totality of the circumstances standard where each case is determined on its own facts, and, ordinarily, the question of failure to act in good faith with due regard for the interests of the insured is for the jury.

Here, it must be noted that the insurance company knew, within days of the accident, that the insured was entirely at fault; that, because the accident involved a motorcycle, the insured would be responsible for all of the personal injury damages that exceeded her $10,000 policy, without regard to the issue of whether the victim suffered a permanent injury; and, that the victim suffered catastrophic injuries to which he was hospitalized for thirteen days and later transferred to a nursing home, and sustained a spinal cord injury, including several broken bone injuries, particularly, vertebrae fractures, rib fractures, a punctured lung, and a scalp laceration. Thus, the court finds that it cannot conclude, as a matter of law, that the insurance company satisfied its duty of good faith.

Moreover, an insurance company has the fiduciary duty to timely, and to properly, investigate claims against its insured. This duty is not relieved simply because the company is waiting for some information from the victim’s attorney. It is evident on the record that the insurance company knew that the victim’s injuries would exceed the policy limits of $10,000. Thus, the company’s failure to tender the policy limits created a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether it breached its duty of good faith.

Lastly, on the argument that summary judgment was appropriate because there was never a formal offer to settle the case, a lack of a formal offer to settle is a factor to be considered in determining whether the insurance company acted in bad faith.

In all, the question of whether it was reasonable for the insurance company to insist on additional medical information beyond what it already knew and insist on further verification of the attorney's lien issue, and whether the insurance company reasonably handled the purported "tender" are indeed factual disputes that must be determined by the finder of fact. It is without a doubt that the record contains genuine issues of material fact to be resolved by the fact-finder as to whether the insurance company acted fairly and with due regard for the insured's interest; whether the insurance company’s actions were reasonably diligent and exercised with reasonable care. Accordingly, the court finds that the summary judgment appealed from must be reversed.

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Spine Fracture a Result of Car Accident

January 27, 2013,

A employee of a nursing home also worked part-time at a realty office as a clerk. She was married and she had young children. She rode as a passenger in the car driven by a friend. The car she was riding in was involved in a car accident. She lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. When she regained consciousness, she complained of pain in her neck, her spine, her shoulder, her wrist, her hips, her knees and her ankle.

The initial diagnosis was a fracture of her cervical spine. MRI and CT Scans as well as x-rays were taken of her but a fracture was ruled out. She stayed a total of three days in the hospital but she was later discharged. She was ordered to see a neurologist to determine the cause of her pain. She was also advised to see an orthopedist and a chiropractor for the management of the pain she was experiencing. She was also advised to undergo physical therapy.

The Westchester employee testified that she sustained a back injury at work sometime six years prior to the accident and she was also in a motor vehicle accident nine years prior to the accident. She experienced pain in her lower spine and legs but she also testified that the pain she felt then was not in the same area that she feels pain now. She claims that she can no longer lift heavy things the way she used to do before the accident in 2006. She worked in a nursing home and her duties include assisting the elderly patients and residents in the nursing home. After the accident, she can no longer stand or sit for long periods of time and she has difficulty assisting to the patients’ physical needs. She couldn’t engage in sports the way she used to do prior to the accident and she cannot do laundry anymore as laundry involved bending down and lifting heavy clothes, lifting wet clothes and putting them in the dryer. All the movements involved the use of her back which now gave her constant pain.

The Staten Island defendants filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that the woman’s injuries, although they may have included her spine, have already been resolved and so, they are not compensable as serious injuries under the Insurance Law. The defendants asked for the dismissal of the employee’s cause of action.

The Court held that the attending physicians of the employee were a neurologist, a radiologist and an orthopedist. They were all unanimous in finding that the condition of the woman’s spine was within normal range. However, they all agreed that there were bulging discs, dessicated discs and compressed discs that may be age related or may be caused by a degenerative disease. They all reported that leg raising and flexing of the lower back in various postures caused muscle spasms. They all opined that the pain constantly experienced by the employee may have been initially caused by age-related degenerative damage to the spine which was aggravated or exacerbated by the spinal injury she sustained in the car accident.http://http://www.1800nynylaw.com/lawyer-attorney-1461120.html

The Court resolved to deny the motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants. The Court found that the reports of the three physicians raise an issue of material fact which must be tried by a jury. The issues of material fact was whether or not the employee suffered indeed from age-related or degenerative spinal condition; and whether or not the accident caused an exacerbation or aggravation of a pre-existing spinal condition; and whether or not this constitutes a serious spinal injury which is compensable under the Insurance Law.
The case was remanded for trial on these issues.

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