If you are like most people, you purchased auto insurance years ago, you pay your premiums when the bill is due, and you assume you have the coverage you need. You have never revisited it. Why is that? Well, nobody (except us - lucky you!) enjoys talking about auto insurance because: (1) most people find it quite boring; (2) it is complicated and difficult to understand; and (3) we all hope that we will never need to use it. Here at QuatriniRafferty, we help people every day who unfortunately need to use their auto insurance. But regrettably, many people realize too late that their auto insurance does not provide them with the coverage they need. In this blog post, we hope to correct a common misunderstanding surrounding auto insurance coverage, specifically what is known as your "tort" selection. So - get out your auto insurance declarations page and let's do a quick review of your coverage! Your auto insurance declarations page is mailed or emailed to you when you renew your policy and it lists the coverage you have and the premiums you pay for that coverage.
Fasten your seatbelts - you're in for an educational and informative ride!
"Full Tort" vs "Limited Tort"
Look at your declarations page and find where it says something like, "Full Tort Applies" or "Limited Tort Applies." This notation is located in different places on your declarations page depending on which insurance company you use. Look until you find it - it really is that important. Let's take a look at this example to further illustrate why that is:
John was stopped at a red light on Route 30 in Greensburg, PA. While John was stopped, Bill, who was driving behind John, became distracted, failed to stop his vehicle, and rear-ended John. Bill is clearly liable for this accident.
After the collision, John had pain in his neck and right forearm. He was taken from the scene of the accident by ambulance to the emergency room and, after undergoing numerous tests and scans, was diagnosed with a neck sprain and fractured right arm (which required a cast). It will take several weeks, many sessions of physical therapy, and doctors' visits for John to fully recover.
John's doctor took him off work for 6 weeks after the accident to allow his broken arm to heal. John works as a machinist and earns $20.00 per hour. On average, if he works for 40 hours per week on regular pay and an additional 5 hours of overtime each week, John makes approximately $950.00 per week. So, as a result of this accident, John's 6 week absence from work will cost him approximately $5,700.00 in lost wages.
What's "Tort" Got to Do With It?
Let's jump back to auto insurance.
In Pennsylvania, the default on your auto insurance coverage is full tort coverage. However, you do have the option to override the full tort option and purchase limited tort. Limited tort is cheaper (sometimes not by very much), but it severely limits your legal rights to recover damages against the at-fault driver's insurance company. This has nothing to do with the at-fault driver's insurance company. Based on the example above, here is how the tort selection would impact John's case:
If John purchased Limited Tort on his auto insurance, he severely limits his legal right to recover even though he was not at fault for the accident. John's damages may be limited to his out-of-pocket losses which, in our example, total the $5,700.00 that John lost wages. This, most likely, would be all John could collect from Bill's auto insurance company - even though Bill is at-fault for the accident.
If John purchased Full Tort on his auto insurance, John would be able to collect for his lost wages, plus his pain and suffering, which is typically the more valuable portion of the claim. Pain and suffering includes all aspects of the injury, including the medical treatment itself and all of the inconveniences that go along with being injured. For example, John is right hand dominant. As a result of this accident, he was unable to use his right hand for a 6 week period. John also has two little girls - ages 6 and 4. He was unable to pick up his kids and play with them like he normally did for 3 months. John would be able to make a claim against Bill's auto insurance company for all of this and be compensated accordingly.
MORAL OF THE STORY: ALWAYS CHOOSE FULL TORT!
Many people are concerned about whether or not they have sufficient auto insurance coverage in the event that they cause an accident and injure someone else. This is very important. Equally important, however, is that your auto insurance protects you and your family in the event that you are injured by a careless driver. Your tort option is a very important place to start, but there are many other topics regarding your auto insurance that we should discuss. There are some issues that may be specific to you, therefore, we are more than happy to review your auto insurance policy with you now. There is no charge for this service, so please call our Personal Injury team at 724-837-0080 for a free consultation. And please remember, if you are ever injured in an auto accident, please make us your first call. We have won millions of dollars for our clients and know what it takes to get you the compensation you deserve.