If you are like most drivers, you probably do not know what types and amounts of auto insurance coverage you have until you are in an car accident. Other than being concerned whether their insurance premiums are too high, most drivers do not consider whether their automobile insurance is adequate, nor do they know what amount may be sufficient, until they need it. Unfortunately, then it is too late.
Limited Tort vs. Full Tort Coverage
There are numerous insurance options that drivers in Pennsylvania have related to their auto coverage. One of the options is choosing whether a driver wants “Limited Tort” or “Full Tort” Coverage.
If you choose Limited Tort, your insurance premiums are slightly cheaper. The amount depends on your driving record, age, your particular insurance company and other factors. In most cases, however, drivers in the Central Pennsylvania area do not save that much by choosing the Limited Tort option.
Limited Tort: In return for choosing the Limited Tort option, a driver gives up his or her right to pursue claims for personal injuries other than economic damages unless the individual has suffered “serious injury” or fits within certain other narrow exceptions.
This limitation may also apply to other family members of drivers who chose Limited Tort. Unfortunately, “serious injury” is not defined in the Automobile Insurance Law in the same manner as most people would think it would be defined. The definition of what constitutes a “serious injury” is quite narrow. Under Pennsylvania law, “serious injury” is defined as personal injury resulting in:
- Serious impairment of body function
- Permanent serious disfigurement
For example, most people assume that if they suffer fractured bones, suffer facial scarring, or suffer an injury requiring months and even years of treatment resulting in severe pain and disability, such an injury is automatically considered a “serious injury.” Yet, those injuries may not fit within the law’s definition.
Full Tort: We recommend that you always choose the Full Tort Option. By choosing that option you will be entitled to pursue a claim for personal injuries without needing to be concerned whether your injuries fit within the law’s extremely restrictive definition of “serious injury.”
At Hagelgans & Veronis, we primarily represent persons involved in automobile accidents. Like good doctors who practice preventive medicine, however, we want to ensure that you have the insurance protection you need to protect you and your family if you are involved in an accident.
Call us at 717-295-7009 and one of our experienced personal injury lawyers will review your insurance policy free of charge and advise you whether or not the insurance coverage you have is adequate to protect you in the event of an unforeseen accident.
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Under Pennsylvania law, you are not required to have either Uninsured Motorist Coverage or Underinsured Motorist Coverage. If you do not have these coverages, however, your family may not be protected if you are injured in an automobile accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage protects your family and you if you are injured by an individual who has no automobile insurance. Unfortunately, there are thousands of individuals in Pennsylvania who drive cars with no insurance.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage protects your family and you if you are injured in an automobile accident and the person who causes the accident has limited liability insurance coverage.
Unfortunately, under Pennsylvania law, a person who owns a car is permitted to carry as little as $15,000 in liability insurance. Not surprisingly, the required minimal liability coverage is not sufficient to fully compensate a person who has been seriously injured.
At Hagelgans & Veronis, we recommend that you have at least $100,000 in Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. At a minimum, you should carry Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in the same amounts as your liability coverage. The cost to purchase Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage is substantially cheaper than the cost to purchase any liability coverage.
Your insurance claim agent is required by Pennsylvania law to offer you Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in the same amounts as your liability coverage. If you sign a waiver or reduction form, however, you may have lower amounts or, worse yet, no Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Therefore, every driver should make sure that he or she has Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in the same amount as his or her liability coverage.
Also, if your family owns more than one vehicle, you should elect “stacking.” That election will increase your Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage by the number of vehicles you have. Again, choosing the “stacking” option is not very costly.
Valuation of an Auto Injury Claim
Frequently, individuals who have been involved in auto accidents want to immediately know the value of their claim. Like medical diagnoses, valuation of auto claims is normally not susceptible to a simple formalistic answer. There are many variables in valuing an auto accident claim.
One of the first important issues is to determine who was at fault for the accident. In Pennsylvania, there are situations where both drivers may be at fault. If the injured individual is at fault, it may reduce or totally bar his or her recovery. Under Pennsylvania law, the person who is pursuing a personal injury claim cannot be more than 50% at fault or that person is totally barred from any recovery.
In evaluating a person’s claim, there are many aspects that need to be considered. An important issue is the extent of the injury. For example:
- Is there a permanent impairment?
- Is there scarring?
- If so, how will the scarring or impairment improve?
Another consideration is how many treatments the individual needed to undergo. Whether the individual requires surgery or hospitalization also affects the value of the claim. Often, the full value of the claim is not known until a period of time has transpired because the treating doctors themselves do not initially know the individual’s prognosis or the full extent of future treatment. Different individuals heal differently from various injuries. Also, some injuries are not readily apparent in the early stages.
Another important consideration is past and future wage losses. Under Pennsylvania law, an injured individual is entitled to not only recover past wage losses up to the time of the recovery, but also any future diminishment of his or her wage earning potential for that individual’s full life span.
Contact An Experience Car Accident Attorney
In addition to the foregoing factors, another important aspect of valuing claims is what jurors in a particular area usually pay to individuals with similar claims. Experienced car accident attorneys such as Hagelgans & Veronis are in the best position to be able to fully evaluate your claim to be certain that you are recovering the full amount to which you are entitled.
Contact our four law offices today to schedule a free consultation. Call our car accident attorneys at 1-877-454-8529.