Pennsylvania Limited Tort Laws
When you purchase car insurance coverage in Pennsylvania, you have a choice between purchasing full tort or limited tort coverage. It is very important to understand the differences between these two coverages and the benefits and disadvantages each type of coverage offers.
Limited Tort Insurance Policy vs. Full Tort Insurance Policy
A full tort insurance policy does not restrict any of your legal rights to seek financial compensation from another party for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. You are entitled to file a lawsuit against another driver to recover compensation for damages including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Permanent disabilities, scarring, and disfigurement
- Other out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident or your recovery
- Physical pain, mental suffering, and emotional stress
Obviously, full tort gives you the most protection, but the coverage does come at a higher price. Limited tort insurance policies cost less than full tort, but these policies limit your ability to file lawsuits to recover compensation for injuries.
Limited tort insurance policies (a/k/a limitation on lawsuit policies) restrict your ability to file lawsuits against other drivers and parties for damages sustained in a car accident. You can file a lawsuit to recover out-of-pocket financial damages such as medical expenses and lost wages, but you are not permitted to seek compensation for your non-economic damages, commonly referred to as pain and suffering damages. However, there are some very limited circumstances in which you can recover pain and suffering damages under a limited tort insurance policy.
Exceptions to the Limitations on Lawsuits Law
It is a myth that you cannot file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering damages if you have a limited tort insurance policy. There are several automatic exceptions to the limitations on lawsuits policy:
- The driver who caused the accident is convicted of DUI or agrees to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for a drink driving charge;
- If you were a bicyclist, pedestrian, motorcyclist, or occupant of a motor vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle (i.e. bus, taxi, commercial vehicle, etc.) at the time of the accident;
- The at-fault driver is an out-of-state driver;
- The other driver was not insured; or,
- The accident was intentional.
The last exception to a limited tort insurance policy is the “serious impairment to a significant bodily function” exemption. This is the most difficult exception to deal with because it is not automatic. You must prove a serious impairment to a bodily function to file a claim for pain and suffering damages.
Factors that must be considered when deciding if an injury falls within the “serious injury” exception include the extent and length of the impairment in addition to the treatment of the impairment. The body function impaired must also be considered as a factor. Sadly, there is not a specific set of guidelines and juries are not always consistent when deciding if an injury meets the requirements for this exemption.
Unfortunately, the exception for a serious impairment is not automatic like the other exceptions. You may want to call us to discuss your case in detail so we can help you fight the insurance company to recover compensation for your injury.