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Full Tort vs. Limited Tort Motor Vehicle Insurance: What Does This Mean?

by | Oct 23, 2020 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

In an attempt to limit the number of personal injury lawsuits resulting from automobile accidents, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted mandatory personal injury protection insurance (PIP). Individuals purchasing insurance in Pennsylvania are classified as either “limited tort” or “full tort”. You may wonder – what does this actually mean?  

A tort means civil wrongdoing or a wrongful act for which the injured party may seek damagesIn an accident wherein the driver is not at fault, a driver may sue the at-fault driver for unpaid medical bills, property damage, loss of income, and pain and suffering.  Full tort coverage enables the insured to sue for all allowable damages including pain and suffering

Limited tort coverage denies the insured the ability to sue for pain and suffering

So, why would someone choose limited tort coverage instead of full tort coverage? In short, a limited tort is less expensive than full tort coverage. However, choosing limited tort means the consumer gives up the right to sue for pain and suffering. 

In certain cases where there is a “serious injury” defined as “death, significant deformity or impairment of body function” an individual with limited tort coverage may still be able to sue for pain and suffering. Insurance companies often deny claims for pain and suffering where the injured has suffered herniated discs or broken bones because these injuries do not meet their definition of “serious injury”. By choosing a limited tort election, the insured may needlessly suffer due to their limited ability to recover damages, all just to save a couple of bucks.

A few exceptions to the limited tort insured’s ability to sue for pain and suffering are as follows: 

● The other driver is convicted of DUI or accepts accelerated rehabilitative disposition; 

● The other driver intentionally caused the injuries;

● The other driver was operating a vehicle registered in a state other than Pennsylvania;  

● The plaintiff was injured while riding in a commercial vehicle;

● The injured was a pedestrian at the time of the accident;      

● The other driver was uninsured;

● The injured party’s insurance company cannot provide a signed copy of the limited tort selection form.     Unless the insured or a family member signed the form, and the insured’s insurance company can provide the signed copy, the insured is automatically full tort.

Limited tort election places an unnecessary burden on the insured to qualify under one of these exceptions if they hope to fully recover damages following an accident.  

Conversely, full tort insurance policies, though slightly more expensive, are well worth the extra cost due to the additional protection they provide. In the aftermath of an accident, knowing full legal protection is in place gives the insured peace of mind. Most insurance policies are lengthy and full of legal jargon which causes the reader to tune out, gloss over, and not fully understand what they are signing. This can cause serious complications if the need arises to bring an action for injuries caused by another driver’s actions.

Look at your insurance policy declarations page. Make sure you know what coverage option you have chosen before you are in an accident. Be prepared in the event you need to sue. If you find yourself in need of legal assistance, do not hesitate to contact the personal injury attorneys at Rick Law. Our firm is always here for you. For a free consultation to review your insurance declaration page or for some tips and pointers, click here to schedule an appointment with Charles Rick, Esquire.