I’m Sorry to Hear a Millionaire Hit Your Car… I hope YOU have Good Car Insurance!
If the title of this article doesn’t make sense to you, then it is imperative for you to read on…
At our personal injury law firm, we get a lot of calls from people who were in pretty horrible car accidents. Usually the car accident was not their fault, so they become defensive when I ask them if they have car insurance. “Why does that matter? It was the other person’s fault. He admitted it. The police report said it was his fault. His insurance has to pay me, right? My insurance won’t be affected, right?”
Yes, that is correct. The at-fault driver’s insurance must pay you, and your insurance will not be affected if you were not at-fault. BUT... Even if Oprah was the at-fault driver, your recovery for pain and suffering will depend on whether you elected Full Tort Coverage or Limited Tort Coverage.
The amount of money you can recover from the at-fault driver wholly depends on what type of car insurance YOU have chosen.
CHECK “FULL TORT”.
When customizing your Pennsylvania car insurance, you can opt for one of two types of coverage: Full Tort or Limited Tort. Both coverages pertain to what you can recover from the at-fault driver should you ever be in a car accident.
Full Tort has higher premiums than Limited Tort because you can recover economic damages, work loss, AND pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is incredibly important to be covered because the monetary damages awarded in relation to pain and suffering is a substantial portion of the overall monetary award to the innocent driver.
Limited Tort has a lower premium and covers economic damages and work loss, but NOT pain and suffering.
The rationale for these two options is public policy. Pennsylvania wants its drivers to have car insurance to protect innocent drivers, but oftentimes the premiums are too high. As a result, Pennsylvania gives drivers an option called “Limited Tort,” which allows drivers to pay a smaller premium in exchange for only being able to recover for economic damages and work loss from an at-fault driver, but there will not be compensation for the pain and suffering you have been through or will continue to go through for the rest of your life, unless one of the exceptions set forth below applies. Even if Oprah hit you and could afford paying for your pain and suffering for having chronic back pain for the rest of your life, you are out of luck.
Limited Tort Exceptions: Serious Impairment of Bodily Function, Aliens, and Drunk Drivers
Now, as with most things, there are exceptions to Limited Tort barring an innocent driver’s ability to recover pain and suffering from an at-fault driver. The first exception is if the innocent driver suffers a “serious impairment of bodily function.” This means that your injuries must be significant enough to impact your daily functioning. Cervical and lumbar sprains and strains will not do it. Broken bones and herniated discs probably will. The second exception is if the at-fault vehicle is an out-of-state vehicle. The third exception is if the driver was drunk or under the influence of drugs.
One car accident can change your entire life. The slight premium difference between limited tort and full tort is not economically worth what you are signing away. Please check your car insurance right now to make sure you have opted for Full Tort, before it is too late.