By Joyce Novotny-Prettiman, Esq.
Understanding your auto insurance policy can be a challenge. Most people rely upon information they hear in the news, “war stories” of their friends, or advice they receive from others when making insurance decisions rather than reading the language in their insurance policy. Practically speaking, you unfortunately learn the most about your insurance policy by making a claim after an auto collision. Since your insurance coverage for an accident is fixed as of the time the accident occurs, these lessons are learned too late.
One of the most misunderstood insurance concepts is the limited tort option, a part of Pennsylvania auto insurance law since 1990. Limited tort severely limits your rights to recovery for injuries caused by an accident. According to the most recent statistics, 51 percent of Pennsylvania policyholders selected the limited tort option in 2004. While the limited tort option does provide a savings on premiums, the trade-off can be devastating. Make no mistake that the decision to select full tort or limited tort is a very important one.
Here are some misunderstandings about limited tort:
“But the accident was not my fault!”
The limited tort selection stays with you regardless of who is at fault for an auto accident. When you select limited tort, the fact that the other driver is totally at fault is meaningless in regard to your ability to bring a claim for your pain and suffering, and similar damages.
“If I have good personal health insurance coverage, I don’t need full tort.”
This is a bad reason to choose limited tort. Limited tort has nothing to do with the payment of medical bills after an accident. In the meantime, your selection of limited tort completely cuts off your right to sue for pain and suffering, scarring, inconvenience or loss of pleasures – all of which have no connection to your medical bills.
“If I have Medicare, I don’t need full tort.”
Once again, your eligibility for Medicare coverage is in no way connected to the choice between full and limited tort. Medicare covers your medical bills and those bills fall under the category of out-of-pocket damages that are treated equally under full tort and limited tort.
“I have never had an auto accident.”
Many times, we see people who are injured in a car accident only months after changing from the full tort to the limited tort option. It does not matter if you have carried full tort coverage for 20 years. If you change to limited tort, you are bound by that selection if the accident occurs after you make the switch.
“I have full coverage.”
It often turns out that clients confuse coverage that protects their car with coverage that protects them personally for bodily injury. Make sure you tell your agent that you want “full tort coverage,” not just “full coverage.”
The only time that limited tort does not prevent you from being compensated for the pain and inconvenience that you have been through is when you have suffered absolutely catastrophic injuries. For example:
- You are killed as a result of a motor vehicle accident
- Your injuries from the accident cause permanently disfiguring scarring
- Your injuries cause serious impairment of a body function
You also gain back your right to be compensated if you are hit by:
- A driver convicted of drunk driving for this accident
- A vehicle registered in another state
- An uninsured driver
You should not leave your auto insurance coverage to chance. Your selection of limited tort binds not only you but also your family members, including your children. If you bring in your policy, we can quickly tell you if you have the right coverage.
A lower premium for bad coverage is not a bargain.
At QuatriniRafferty , we can help you with questions about your auto insurance coverage. To review your auto insurance coverage or inquire about a car accident, please email a Pennsylvania car insurance attorney today, or call us at 724-837-0080 in Greensburg or toll free at 888-534-6016.
For more information on Pennsylvania auto insurance, please visit our Car Accidents Information page.
For more information on auto accidents, please visit our Motor Vehicle Accident Information Center.
Related articles on Pennsylvania auto insurance & auto accidents:
Beware – All Registered Vehicles Must Be Insured
Why is my Auto Insurance Paying my Medical Bills?