What Is A Serious Physical Injury?

Have you ever looked at a news headline and thought, “Is someone really suing because of that?” You may recall recent news stories about a lawsuit Starbucks is facing for allegedly “not filling their cups all the way”. Lawsuits like this are known as frivolous lawsuits, and they come at a dime a dozen, costing individuals and companies alike time and money to protect themselves from them, not to mention the court’s time to review or hear them.

New York State is well aware of the negative effects of a frivolous lawsuit and has passed legislation to bar them from entering court, specifically pertaining to personal injury cases. Unless an accident or incident has caused a “serious physical injury” or economic losses greater than $50,000, the court won’t hear it. But this bears the immediate question, “What is a serious physical injury?”


Article 51 of the Insurance Law in New York State legal defines what constitutes a “serious” physical injury that is worthy of a civil lawsuit. Serious physical injury includes disfigurement, dismemberment, impairment that causes the inability to use a body part and death.

According to New York law, one or more of the following must occur for an injury to be “serious”:

  1. Death
  2. Dismemberment
  3. Significant disfigurement (visibly disfigured)
  4. Bone fracture
  5. Loss of a fetus
  6. Permanent inability to use a body part
  7. Permanent limitation of a body part’s use
  8. Significant but nonpermanent limitation of a body part’s use
  9. Any injury or consequence, which has been medically examined, that significantly burdens or complicates the victims day-to-day life for at least 90 days within the first 180 days following the accident or incident

The last description is definitely the most difficult to decipher but it is critical for overall definition of what New York calls a “serious physical injury.” To clarify it, imagine the following scenario:

You are struck by a vehicle when walking down the street. You do not suffer a fracture but your arm is sore and using it causes discomfort, so much so that you are discouraged from activities that require both arms. If this trouble endures for at least 90 days following the accident, it could be considered a serious injury. If the soreness goes away after a month, the court would not consider it to be lawsuit-worthy, despite it causing you plenty of frustrations for those 30 days.

What this all means is that if your injury is not obviously and objectively severe, you might need to wait 90 days before filing a lawsuit against the liable party. Keep in mind that New York also has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, so don’t let the issue completely fall out of your focus. When you need help creating your case, or if you have more questions about what truly is a “serious” physical injury, you can contact King Law. Rochester personal injury attorney King has close to a decade of legal experience and has handled hundreds of cases. Just dial (585) 270-8882 and the firm can figure out how soon your free initial consultation can be scheduled.


May 26, 2022

When Are Property Owners Responsible for Personal Injuries?
Read More

November 17, 2023

New York Passes Clean Slate Act
Read More

August 31, 2022

Answers to Your FAQs About Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claim
Read More

August 25, 2022

4 Rules When You Get Pulled Over for DWI in New York
Read More