Why are the Differences Between Limited Tort and Full Tort Auto Insurance so Important?
In 1990, there were many complaints that automobile insurance premiums were costing far too much in Pennsylvania. The State Legislature made a decision to do something about it, so they decided to adopt Michigan’s approach to insurance for motor vehicles. The basis of this is that all insurance companies have the obligation to offer a cheaper insurance option to their clients. This is when the terms Limited Tort and Full Tort were initiated in the state. Our team of attorneys here in Pennsylvania does not support the eroding of rights by offering poor value insurance options to our clients. They will suffer financially if they are injured in a car accident due to the actions of a negligent driver.
How are our Clients Affected When they are Injured in an Auto Accident?
Basically, the discounted option, which is referred to as Limited Tort, is not of any benefit whatsoever if someone has the misfortune to encounter an accident, which was not their fault. This Limited Tort option, which is substantially cheaper than Full Tort, prevents a person who has been injured from filing a claim for compensation for what is called non-economic damages. This is an amount of money that can be claimed for pain and suffering as a result of the injuries, which can make up a significant amount of any personal injury claim. There are some exceptions to this ruling but they have to be argued through lengthy court cases where the judge and jury make the decision as to whether the victim satisfies the requirements to make this claim.
What Normally Happens When Purchasing Auto Insurance for the First Time?
When someone buys a new auto, the first thing that is normally done is a visit to an insurance company’s office to get it insured. Many people, not being too familiar with legal terminology, would just go into a dreamlike state when the agent is explaining the various options. If the word “discount” is mentioned, then many people would be instantly alerted and when it is explained that a personal injury claim cannot be made for non-economic damages in the form of pain and suffering in the event of an accident, it would not be seen as relevant to their new automobile acquisition. Far more important is that the car is covered in the case of damage or theft. As each year passes, a new signature replaces the old one on the policy document until one day an accident happens that was not the fault of the driver. A visit to the lawyer reveals that the Limited Tort policy does not cover everything in a personal injury claim.
Why is Full Tort Better?
Most personal injury attorneys like ourselves recommend to our clients that they take out the Full Tort option, as it has no limits on an insurance policyholder’s rights. It covers for every possible personal injury that could occur in a motor vehicle accident. Often, by the time our clients realize that they are not covered by this option, it is too late and the accident has taken place.
Clients do not Always Know Which Tort Covers Them
As stated in Pennsylvania law, when the policyholder selects Limited Tort or Full Tort, it also applies to other people who are named on the policy. They are referred to as “named insureds”, which is normally the spouse and other people who are relatives and live in the same household. When a new auto is purchased by a member of the household, the purchaser may choose Limited Tort so all other members named on the policy have the same coverage. If an accident takes place involving one of the insureds, they may not realize which type of coverage they have until they find they are limited in their personal injury claim.
We, as personal injury lawyers, do not recommend that anyone who purchases a auto, whether new or used, should even consider taking out a Limited Tort policy. One of the worst things about an insurance policy is that it is renewed annually automatically and the holders rarely remember what the real worth is of their cover until an accident takes place and a serious injury is the result.
Some People Think That They are Always Covered by the Negligent Driver’s Policy
If you have an accident and it was the fault of a negligent driver, it is your tort selection that determines your right to file a personal injury claim for non-economic damages. The tort selection by the negligent driver is not relevant to your claim, as it is you that has given up your full rights by selecting the discounted Limited Tort option. The tort selected by the negligent driver only has an effect on his or her own rights and that of his or her spouse, along with any other relatives in the household that are included in the policy.
Your tort selection also applies when you are in any motor vehicle that carries passengers and is privately owned. This is the coverage you will have if involved in an accident in another person’s vehicle.
Finally, it must not be forgotten that the restrictions on Limited Tort are only relevant to damages that are non-economic, which relates to the personal injuries side of the accident. The restrictions imposed by Limited Tort do not apply to property damage, medical expenses and loss of wages. A person who has been injured and has Limited Tort coverage is permitted to make a claim for compensation to the negligent driver for any damage to their own vehicle, for any loss of wages while recovering from the injury and for any medical expenses that have not been paid after the limit on their own auto insurance policy for medical costs has been reached.
The Limited Tort choice means recovery is limited for any injuries that have been sustained in an auto accident. In practice, this means that unless the injuries are very serious, no money can be collected at all. The definition for “serious” is unclear.
Under Limited Tort Claims, What is a Serious Injury?
Often, a serious injury leads to death, but there are also situations where one or more bodily functions have been seriously damaged or where disfigurement is likely to be permanent. Over the last twenty years, many cases have been in front of courts and most personal injury lawyers like ourselves are still left with an uncertain definition of the term “serious injury”. Of the cases that have been through litigation, trying to further define just what the law means by seriously impaired bodily functions has never been fully confirmed.
Courts have tried to address these uncertainties by viewing most injuries to “soft tissues”, such as in the neck and back, as not sufficient enough to meet the “severely impaired” condition. Frequently, head injuries and broken bones have not met the law’s “serious”, definition even though the impact on the individuals concerned was quite serious.
As a result of the Limited Tort category and the term “serious”, courts are acting unfavorably when it comes to handling personal injury cases when the victim was only covered by Limited Tort.
When it comes to appearing in court, if the injuries of the personal injury victim have healed and no pain is being experienced, then the injury no longer falls in the serious category. There is no thought put into the fact that the person might have been off work for several weeks or months recovering.
It is not impossible to win a claim under Limited Tort, but it is undoubtedly far more difficult. The insurers are now able to gather money on policies which they have less risk of loss. Overall, the insurers’ chance of paying out on claims is now reduced at a far greater rate than the very small rate reduction that has been transferred to the consumer who chooses limited tort. Currently, there is just one method for a person to fully protect themselves and that is to pay out for the higher rates and get Full Tort cover. Our law offices here in Pennsylvania fully support Full Tort as the only effective form of coverage.
If you have been involved in a car accident that was not your fault and you do not understand what your insurance policy covers when making a claim for a personal injury, call us here in Pennsylvania where our experienced tort lawyers will guide you through the complicated process. We have won many personal injury claims for victims who have only been covered by the Limited Tort option as we are dedicated to ensuring that our clients get the compensation they deserve. Call us for a free, no strings consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis so if we take on your case you only pay when we win. Don’t let your insurance company get the better of you as you are legally entitled to be compensated for injuries in a car accident that were not your fault.