I was recently approached by a client who suffered injuries when he was rear ended while stopped at a red light. The client’s insurance policy was a limited tort policy and the client asked me, “Can I file a lawsuit with limited tort insurance?” The answer is yes; however, the amount and type of damages one who has elected limited tort insurance can recover varies greatly depending on numerous factors and circumstances.
At a basic level, limited tort insurance is an election one makes when they purchase automobile insurance which limits their right and the rights of members of their household to seek financial compensation for injuries caused by other drivers. Specifically, the limited tort election limits one’s ability to recover for pain and suffering or other nonmonetary damages unless the injuries suffered fall within the definition of “serious injury.” This limitation has a significant impact on the amount of damages a jury can award to a victim that has limited tort coverage.
Whether an injury is “serious” is a question of fact for the jury to decide and turns on whether the victim suffered a serious impairment of a body function. In order to determine this, the jury considers the extent of the impairment, the particular body function impaired, the length of time the impairment lasted, the treatment required to correct the impairment, and any other relevant factors.
In the case of my client rear ended at a traffic light, he sustained herniations and disc bulges in his spine which required, physical therapy, several months of injections, anti-inflammatory medication, and application of ice packs. Despite his injuries, the client remained able to continue to work full time; although not without difficulties. The client’s injuries in this case were in fact “serious”; and therefore, his damages were not limited despite his limited tort status.
In addition to those suffering serious injury, one’s limited tort election may be set aside under various circumstances. The victim’s limited tort election will be set aside when the person at fault for the accident: (i) is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; (ii) is operating a vehicle registered in another state; (iii) intends to injure himself or another person; (iv) fails to maintain auto insurance; (v) is in the business of designing, manufacturing, maintaining or repairing motor vehicles (if the claim is based upon a vehicle defect); or (vi) if the injured party is the occupant of a vehicle other than a “private passenger motor vehicle”, such as a motorcycle, taxi, tractor-trailer or bus.
Whether an injury is considered “serious” to set aside a limited tort election or whether one of the six exceptions to a limited tort election applies requires an intensive and comprehensive analysis of the facts and circumstances of an accident as well as a complete understanding of the victim’s medical diagnoses, treatment, prognosis, and impact the injury has had on the victim’s life. Goebert Law LLC has the expertise, persistence, and determination to pursue a thorough investigation of your auto accident and whether you are bound by a limited tort election.
Goebert Law LLC maintains relationships with medical experts, life care planners, and accident reconstructionist required to establish the seriousness of an injury and the applicability of any limited tort exception. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important that you have your case evaluated by an experienced attorney. The amount of time you have to pursue a claim is limited by law, and, it is therefore important that you act expeditiously. Please contact Goebert Law LLC for a free consultation and evaluation of any automobile accident claim you may wish to pursue.