October 29, 2016

By: Peter M. Hileman, Esq.

We represented a client we will call Ramon Martinez. One day, as Ramon was driving home from his job in the stockroom at K-Mart, he was hit head-on by a car that turned left directly into his path. His car was totaled and had to be towed away. The police issued a citation to the other driver, who was 100 percent at fault for the accident. Ramon was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and treated for injuries to his back and left knee.

After he left the emergency room, Ramon was treated by an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon who diagnosed him with a severely herniated disk in his back and a fractured knee-cap, which could not be surgically treated. He was out of work for seven weeks and could not perform his duties when he returned. He lost his job and then his health insurance. No doctor would treat him. He then found another job, which he also lost due to limitations related to his injuries. He couldn’t make the payments on his new car and it was repossessed.

Ramon called many lawyers who would not take his personal injury case. Why? Because he had elected limited tort on his auto insurance policy.

Limited tort made Mr. Martinez a victim twice. He was first victimized by the other driver, who caused the car accident. He was then victimized again by the travesty of limited tort, which prevented him from receiving just compensation for his injuries and losses.

When Mr. Martinez finally called us, he was penniless and was living on the kindness of friends. We took his case. At Drake, Hileman & Davis, we take limited tort cases. In fact, some of our biggest recoveries have been in cases where the client elected limited tort. Limited tort cases are extremely difficult to win, as Mr. Martinez found out the hard way. Had he elected full tort on his auto insurance policy, he would have had a much easier time obtaining compensation for his injuries.

What did we do? First, we obtained and sent all of his medical records and a summary of his damages to the other driver’s insurance company. The other driver’s insurance company reviewed the case and decided to offer nothing. Zero. Why? Limited tort. They didn’t think he had sustained a serious injury.

Mr. Martinez had minimum insurance coverage. That is, he had the least insurance the law would allow. He had elected limited tort, had waived uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, had only $5,000 in medical benefits and had no wage loss coverage. He was legal to drive in Pennsylvania, but had not adequately protected himself in the event of an accident, even one caused solely by the negligence of another driver. As a result, he felt helpless to collect what he should have been legally entitled to fair compensation.

It seemed that no one cared — not his insurance company, not the other driver’s insurance company and not the accident lawyers he called. Most lawyers won’t even take limited tort cases because they are so difficult to win. Judges and juries are often unsympathetic to injury victims such as Ramon. Frequently they don’t believe that the victim has incurred a serious injury under limited tort law.

We cared. Ramon’s story was compelling, and we wanted to help. Even though we knew it would be an uphill battle, we filed suit for Ramon.

Fortunately, Ramon’s personal injury case had a happy ending. We were able to put together a claim that detailed his economic losses, wage losses, medical bills and physical problems that resulted from the accident. We were able to persuade the lawyers for the other driver to resolve the case by binding high-low arbitration. We ended up presenting his case to a skilled, knowledgeable and fair arbitrator, rather than an unpredictable jury. The arbitrator gave Ramon a fair award — enough to get him needed medical treatment and back on his feet.

If another lawyer has told you that you have no case because you have limited tort, contact us for a second opinion and free case evaluation.