What is Range of Motion Loss, and How Can it Affect My Case? 

Posted: March 15, 2023

The force of a car crash can be immense. Momentum caused by the speed of travel are instantly transferred into the bumper of a car, and then into the spine of its occupants. This can lead to a violent whiplash effect that can permanently damage soft tissue intervertebral discs, which serve an important function in maintaining the alignment of the spine, potentially leading to devastating injuries that can interfere with daily activities.  


Someone who endures this traumatic experience, will probably tell stories about how mundane activities of daily living are made difficult or impossible. Sleep may be disrupted. Standing may become painful. And walking, even a short distance, may seem intolerable. 


Absent certain exceptions, most people seeking to obtain compensation for pain and suffering after a New York car crash must show that they have sustained a “serious injury.” That term has an established definition that was assigned by the state legislature a long time ago. The meaning of that definition, as applied to unique individuals, can be difficult to pin down.  


Some of these categories, such as the “fracture” category, are easy to understand. A fracture can be ascertained on a diagnostic imaging study, such as an X-ray. Does the x-ray reveal a fracture or not? Sure, there may be some ambiguity in the case of dental injuries, but for the most part it is relatively easy to determine whether someone injured in a car accident endured a traumatically induced fracture as a result of such accident. 


Things can get somewhat complicated, however, when it comes to the “soft-tissue” categories of the serious injury definition. These categories include:  

  • 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. 

While the state legislature did not provide much guidance as to how one can establish a qualifying injury under these categories, courts have established frameworks and guideposts that can help determine whether someone’s injuries qualify under any one of these categories. For example, courts have held that someone injured in a car accident can establish that injuries qualify under the “significant limitation of use” or “permanent consequential limitation of use” categories through competent evidence of range of motion loss. In the language of the courts, this can provide a “quantitative assessment” of the extent of limitation, establishing a serious injury. 


What is range of motion? Certain parts of the body move in different “planes” of motion. For example, the neck can flex (when you look down) and extend (when you look up). Medical providers have an idea of what would constitute normal range of motion in different planes of movement. When you show decreased range of motion that is related to an injury or ailment caused by the trauma of the crash, that may constitute evidence of your limitations and you may be able to use these range of motion findings as evidence that you sustained a serious injury. 


The point of medical treatment, after a car crash or any trauma, is obviously to feel better and help you return to normal. Medical records generated during treatment may, however, become evidence that can be used to support or undermine a claim that you sustained a serious injury. This evidence can significantly impact whether a personal injury claim for compensation relating to pain-and-suffering will succeed. 


The experienced attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. have extensive experience analyzing medical records and helping injured people establish that they sustained a serious injury and are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. If you’re looking for an experienced attorney after a New York car accident please do not hesitate to contact our attorneys. 

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