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We've long cautioned our clients, family and friends against electing the limited tort option on their Pennsylvania automobile insurance policies. For those who've already elected limited tort, we encourage a call to the insurance agent (followed by a confirmatory letter) changing the option asap!
Why? Everyone thinks limited tort isn't so bad because, if you're seriously injured, you can still recover. They think to themselves, "Why, I'd never try to get money if I wasn't seriously injured. Of course I'll elect limited tort on my PA car insurance." The problem is that the definition of serious injury is often very different from what the average person thinks. You can have chronic, long term problems and a judge may still find that you are not entitled to recover a penny for your pain and suffering.
That's exactly what happened to a policeman in Monroe County last month. The case, reported in the Pennsylvania Law Weekly, was decided by Judge Wallach Miller of the Court of Common Pleas and provides another example of the problems associated with limited tort in Pennsylvania car accident injury cases.
The Monroe County Example
In Stout v. Deleo (Court of Common Pleas, Monroe County, Feb. 2, 2011), the plaintiff was a police officer injured in a car accident. For purposes of the opinion, it was assumed that the other driver was 100% at fault for the accident (Purchase & George were not involved in this case in any way but the procedural posture of the case was such that fault is, as a matter of law, conceded).
The policeman missed work the three days following the accident and sought medical care. He took over-the-counter pain relief medication. He then returned to work and continued in his employment without missing time for his injury.
Unfortunately, although he didn't let it keep him from work, the injured policeman continued to have trouble with his injuries. He had chronic shoulder pain, decreased range of motion of his neck, back and shoulder, right arm pain and right arm numbness. He underwent physical therapy and saw a pain management specialist. He reported difficulty sleeping at night and attributed some weight gain to his chronic pain condition.
The trial court in the case dismissed the plaintiff's claim without ever letting it go to a jury. The judge ruled that the plaintiff's injuries were not serious and did not constitute a "serious impairment of a body function."
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that limited tort is a gamble in which the odds are stacked against you. Why take a chance that you'll have permanent or chronic pain that limits your ability to move and that you'll be denied the chance to recover any compensation? If you are contemplating a new auto insurance policy, or if you have an existing policy on which you've elected the limited tort option, make sure you notify your agent that you want Full Tort rights.
Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Injury Lawyer
If you've been hurt in a Pennsylvania car accident, we can help. Call us today for a free consultation with one of our helpful Erie injury lawyers. Call 814-580-5017 or toll free 877-505-9548.