Legal Services > Automobile Insurance
Choosing “Limited Tort” Limits
While driving to work one morning, two friends, Dan and
Pete, were stopped at a traffic light and were rear-ended
by another driver, who was turning down the radio while talking
on his car phone.
Both friends suffered similar neck and back injuries, were
treated by their family doctors and received physical therapy
for three or four months. The driver, Dan, saw an attorney
who presented his claim which settled. Pete, the passenger,
saw his own attorney and was told that he could not recover
for his pain and suffering.
“Why not?”, asked Pete, “I experienced
extreme pain and discomfort for the first several months,
and it gradually subsided over six months or so. I had to
go through dozens of doctor and physical therapy treatments.
I occasionally have some minimal discomfort.” Pete’s
attorney explained that Dan, selected “full tort”
coverage under his auto policy. Pete, however, selected limited
tort,” to save 10% on his premium, and by doing so,
cannot be compensated for his injuries.
Unfortunately, this situation is becoming all too common
in our practice. Many of our clients come to us after being
involved in an automobile accident, bring in their policy,
and we discover that they have selected the “limited
tort” option, which drastically limits their right to
recover for pain and suffering.
The “limited tort” option restricts an injured
victim's ability to recover monetary damages unless they have
suffered a “serious impairment of a bodily function.”
The courts have interpreted this legal term of art very strictly.
Even in cases where victims sustained a fractured shoulder,
a fractured skull or were still suffering from injuries almost
two years after the accident, the courts did not find a serious
impairment of a bodily function, and they were awarded $0.
If they had not chosen the limited tort option, they would
have been able to recover for their pain and suffering.
In our story, for an additional policy premium of about $135
per year for full tort coverage, Dan was able to present a
claim and recover a satisfactory amount for his pain and suffering.
Pete, who elected to save $135 per year for limited tort coverage,
received no compensation for his injuries.
Only you can decide how much you want to spend on automobile
insurance premiums. We all agree that premiums are high, but
ask yourself, is it really worth saving 10% if it means you
are giving up your right to be compensated for all but the
most serious injuries?
Unfortunately, Dan and Pete's scenario is all too common.
I suggest that you review your insurance policy immediately.
On the coverage page of your policy, your tort election will
say either “full” or “limited” tort.
It is my advice that if your policy says “limited”
tort, you change it to “full tort”immediately,
as by selecting “limited” tort, you are giving
up substantial rights to recover and be compensated for pain
and suffering for yourself and every relative in your household,
including your children.
Essentially, without “full tort”,
you do not have full coverage. The small savings you may
see on limited” tort premium, in my opinion, in no
way justifies giving up your rights. Call your insurance
agent; check the numbers for yourself.
I also strongly recommend that you purchase uninsured
and underinsured motorist coverage. This is extremely
important, especially in today's environment where other drivers
may have limited liability insurance or no insurance at all.
This coverage is relatively inexpensive in comparison, and
I strongly recommend that you purchase an amount of a minimum
of $50,000. Many clients have as much as $300,000 to $1,000,000.
It is my opinion that this type of insurance is a necessity
in today's environment.
If you have any questions concerning your automobile insurance
coverage, please feel free to call me for a free consultation.
This could be one of the most important calls you make for
you and your family.
James D. Famiglio, Esquire
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