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Tort Automobile Insurance – Right to Sue (Part 3)

Tort Automobile Insurance

This is our final blog post in a series of articles pertaining to basic principles of automobile insurance. Part 1 covered bodily injury insurance for your motor vehicle, and part 2 went over motor vehicle medical expense insurance coverage.

When you purchase automobile insurance from your insurance agent, you must choose one of two tort automobile insurance options: “full tort” or “limited tort.”


What is Tort Automobile Insurance?

A tort is a legal wrongdoing – something more than ordinary rudeness, but less serious than a crime.  Negligent driving of your automobile causing a two-car or three-car accident is a tort.

If you choose the “full tort” option on your policy, you retain the right to sue a negligent driver who injures you in a motor vehicle accident.  You may recover for your pain and suffering, as well as for permanent or continuing limitations on your activities.

On the other hand, if you choose the “limited tort” option you can sue only for actual economic losses that you have sustained that are not covered by your own insurance coverage.  To sue for pain and suffering under the “limited tort” option you will have to have sustained a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of a body function or permanent serious disfigurement. In many cases that is hard to prove. Other exceptions to the limited tort option are that you still may recover for pain and suffering if the negligent driver was drunk, was driving an out-of-state vehicle, injured you intentionally, or was uninsured.

Let me give you an example.  A client was driving in a southerly direction on a four-lane highway early one morning.  As he approached an intersection where there was a traffic light, he had the green light and therefore, the right-of-way.  A motor vehicle driving in the opposite direction made a left-hand turn in front of my client as he was entering the intersection.  The other driver had a red light and was not paying attention because she was talking on her cell phone.   My client was traveling approximately 30 miles per hour, and broadsided the other driver who went through the red light, causing her vehicle to roll over on its roof.  My client suffered a closed head injury (relatively serious) as well as strains and sprains to his entire neck, left shoulder and right shoulder. He spent five hours in the emergency room and subsequently treated with his medical doctor, a chiropractor, and a physical therapist, with treatment lasting approximately four (4) months.  The insurance carrier for the driver of the other car concluded that their insured was 100% negligent in causing the accident.  Because my client had chosen the “full tort” option on his automobile insurance, he retained the right to recover for pain and suffering and any limitations on activities.  My client’s car was totaled, and the other driver’s carrier paid the present market value for the car in addition to pain and suffering and lost wages.  Had he not chosen the full tort option, he would have been precluded from filing a lawsuit for pain and suffering against the other driver who was negligent.

Choosing the “full tort” option on your insurance is more expensive, but I always recommend to all my clients that they purchase the “full tort option” which will permit them to sue for pain and suffering as a result of the negligence of another motor vehicle driver.

— Written by Richard D. Linderman, Esq.

Still have questions about tort automobile insurance? Contact us today!

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this blog are not legal advice, and are not to be used for that purpose.  If you are faced with a legal matter, you should contact a lawyer immediately in order to ensure that you are protected.

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