What is Considered a Permanent Injury from a Car Crash?

Updated: Feb 23, 2024

If you were in a car crash that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you might be overwhelmed with medical bills and might have been out of work for a while. While you may have sustained an injury, how do you know if it’s permanent (under the eyes of the law) as opposed to temporary? Most minor, temporary injuries do not warrant filing a personal injury lawsuit. Permanent injuries, however, are a different story, as their implications on your body can be far more significant and life-altering.

The applicable New Jersey states: “[a]n injury shall be considered permanent when the body part or organ, or both, has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.” N.J.S.A. 39:6A- 8(a). You must be able to prove this through “objective, credible medical evidence.” The injury needs to be verified by physical examination or medical testing. It cannot be based solely on your subjective complaints. So, if you’re hollering in pain when you turn your neck, but all your medical testing came back normal – you’re out of luck.

There are many types of permanent injuries you can have that could warrant a lawsuit, but below are the most common:

Neck and back: Many car wrecks cause injuries to the discs in the neck and the back. The extent of the damage is typically revealed by diagnostic testing, such as MRIs and EMG / NCVs. They may require initial conservative medical care, followed by more invasive procedures.

Traumatic brain injury: If a head injury was bad enough, it can lead to brain damage, leading to loss of brain function. These are typically diagnosed by neurologists and neuropsychologists.

Extremity injuries, including injuries to ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows, and wrists: We see these types of injuries frequently during motor vehicle crashes. Once again MRIs are typically used to determine the extent of the damage done to the tendons and ligaments. Your treating doctor should explain the radiologist’s findings and the course of appropriate treatment.

Spinal cord: Injuries to the spinal cord are typically very serious. These can cause partial or complete paralysis. Many who suffer such serious injuries are permanently disabled.

AUTO INSURANCE POINTER: If you or your family selected the “Limitation on Lawsuit Option” on your automobile insurance policy, your ability to bring a successful claim may be limited. You, like most New Jersey residents, may have been unaware of this selection. Check your automobile insurance declaration page as to what option you have. The “Limitation on Lawsuit Threshold” allows a claim for non-economic loss only if the bodily injuries fall within one of the following categories:
• Death
• Loss of a body part / dismemberment
• Significant disfigurement or significant scarring
• A displaced fracture
• Loss of fetus
• A permanent injury
Feel free to read our prior posts on the topic, such as this one. There are certain exceptions the this threshold, even if you have it selected on your auto insurance policy.

The personal injury attorney you consult should be able to determine whether your injuries warrant proceeding with a claim. If you’ve sustained an injury due to another person’s fault, feel free to reach out to us for a free legal consultation. If you’re unsure whether your injury would be considered permanent under NJ law, we can assist you. We can determine whether you have a claim that would be worthwhile bringing.

Michael Raff, Esq.