Understanding the Limited Tort and Full Tort Election on Pennsylvania Automobile Insurance

Posted May 16, 2024

  • Understanding the Limited Tort and Full Tort Election on Pennsylvania Automobile Insurance

Among the many options that Pennsylvania drivers have when purchasing automobile insurance is whether to select Full Tort or Limited Tort coverage. Unfortunately, aside from the obvious cost difference, far too few drivers understand the implications of this election. The reality is that by selecting Limited Tort, a Pennsylvania driver may significantly limit the damages they can recover for injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

In Pennsylvania, drivers who select Full Tort may pursue compensation for any damages resulting from an automobile accident. These damages may not only include medical costs and other out-of-pocket expenses but also damages for pain and suffering. In contrast, many Pennsylvania drivers are surprised to learn that if they selected Limited Tort on their automobile policy, they are precluded from recovering damages for pain and suffering unless certain exceptions apply. In the absence of an exception, Limited Tort victims will not be permitted to seek damages for pain and suffering which effectively limits their recovery to economic damages such as medical costs and out-of-pocket expenses.

With regard to the exceptions, while Full Tort victims may recover for pain and suffering for any injury, Limited Tort victims can only recover for pain and suffering if they suffered a “serious injury.” Generally, a serious injury is an injury resulting in death, serious impairment of a bodily function or permanent serious disfigurement. Determining whether there was a serious injury is a fact sensitive analysis but Courts may look at factors such as the impact on normal activities, the extent and length of impairment and the treatment required.

Even in the absence of a “serious injury” other exceptions may allow a Limited Tort victim to recover for pain and suffering. Other exceptions may include:

  • Drunk or Impaired Drivers: Where the at-fault driver is convicted or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance;
  • Out-of-State Vehicles: Where the at-fault driver is operating a vehicle that is registered out-of-state;
  • Intentional Harm: Where the at-fault driver intended to cause injury;
  • No Insurance: Where the at-fault driver failed to maintain insurance as required by law;
  • Passenger in a Commercial Vehicle. Where the victim was a passenger in a commercial vehicle;
  • Product Liability. Where the victim is seeking compensation against a person for the defective design, manufacturing, repair or service of a vehicle; and
  • Pedestrians. Where the victim was a pedestrian.

Unfortunately, not all Limited Tort victims will be able to satisfy an exception to permit recovery for pain of suffering. Therefore, the election on your automobile insurance between Limited Tort and Full Tort can significantly impact available recovery for an accident and outweigh the cost of increased insurance premiums. However, even if a Pennsylvania driver selected Limited Tort, it is always advised to consult with an attorney to determine if any exceptions apply in order to maximize recovery.

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident and would like to schedule a consultation, please contact me.

About the Author:

Robert Donchez is a Partner at the Firm and a member of the Personal Injury team. He seeks justice for victims in catastrophic injury and death cases including those involving automobiles, product liability, premises liability and medical malpractice. Robert is a lifelong resident of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.


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