It's a sad fact that auto accidents result in serious injury to thousands of people in the United States each year. In many states, tort law governs your right to sue a party that causes injury to you or your loved ones in an accident. Your state's tort laws may also offer you options as to the extent of damages you can seek under your auto insurance coverage.
In legal terms, a tort is a breach of civil law as opposed to criminal law. It is possible to commit a tort without committing a crime. However, in a situation like when a drunk driver causes injury to others, a tort and a criminal offense can occur simultaneously. To seek a remedy for a tort, the injured party, or plaintiff, files suit against the party alleged to have caused the injury, or the defendant, in a court of law. Depending on your state of residence, you may have the option to choose between limited tort and full tort when purchasing an auto insurance policy.
If you choose limited tort, it means you have limited rights of recovery when suing another party for damages due to an auto accident. In general, you are only entitled to receive compensation for actual damages, not additional "punitive" damages like pain and suffering, except under rare circumstances. If you select full tort, you retain the right to sue for pain and suffering. Because it offers an additional benefit, full tort results in a higher insurance premium than limited tort.
If you are concerned about keeping insurance costs to a minimum and are not worried about having the right to sue for additional damages, you will probably want to select the limited tort option. In general, this can save you roughly 15 percent on your car insurance premium. If you have deep concerns over being compensated for pain and suffering, which is not an uncommon consequence of a serious auto accident, paying the additional premium for full tort can give you additional peace of mind.
Coverage for Others
Another point to consider when making your tort option selection is the impact it will have on others. The tort option does not only apply to you -- the owner of the vehicle -- but to others in your household who are insured under the policy. If you have children and they are injured while riding with you, you'll need to consider how important it is to you that they have the right to seek additional damages.