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Choosing “Limited Tort” Limits Your Protection

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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FamiglioLaw.com Law offices of James D. Famiglio, P.C. 811 N. Providence Road Media, Pennsylvania 19063
EMAIL: jfamiglio@famigliolaw.com 610-359-9220 office 610-306-2929 cell

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