LIMITED TORT OR FULL TORT CAR INSURANCE?
July 1st, 2018 | Donald C. Ligorio
Since the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) was implemented, people purchasing automobile insurance need to choose between a limited tort or full tort option.
With the full tort option, in the event of an accident you and other household members covered by the policy may seek recovery for all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses as well as financial compensation for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages as a result of injuries caused by other drivers.
Under limited tort, compensation for pain and suffering or other non-monetary damages can normally not be sought. There are, however, several exceptions to the ban on seeking non-monetary damages.
The full tort option is a bit more expensive. It typically adds a few dollars each month, but provides the potential to recover thousands of dollars for pain and suffering. The cost difference between full tort and limited tort can easily be made up by choosing a higher deductible or through discounts that some insurance companies offer if a driver meets certain conditions (e.g., taking a defensive driving course.)
HKQ Attorney Donald Ligorio cites recent statistics to illustrate the importance of choosing the full tort option. “There are over 125,000 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania every year. These accidents result in nearly 83,000 injuries and 1100 deaths annually. Serious injuries can be life-changing. Make sure you are insured and prepared if you or a family member are injured.”
Exceptions to Limited Tort Restrictions
Under MVFRL, there are exceptions under which an injured party who is insured by a limited tort policy can still recover pain and suffering damages:
- Your injuries are deemed to be serious. A serious injury is defined as death, serious impairment of a body function, or permanent serious disfigurement. The impact of the injury on a person’s life, and not just the injury itself, is an important consideration when determining if an injury is “serious”. The injury does not need to be permanent to be considered serious. (Note that with full tort, there are no thresholds to overcome regarding the severity of your injury.)
- The at-fault driver is driving a vehicle that is registered in another state. This exception applies to the vehicle involved in the crash rather than to the driver. The driver’s address and the state in which the license was issued are irrelevant.
- The at-fault driver is not insured. Be aware, however, that uninsured drivers may be difficult to recover from as they may have limited assets and income. Optional uninsured motorist (UM) coverage can provide a measure of financial protection related to injuries caused by an uninsured driver. UM will also cover medical expenses from a hit-and-run accident. Optional Underinsured Motorist (UIM) applies when the at-fault motorist does not have enough insurance to pay your claim. Neither UM or UMI cover property damage.
- The driver at fault for the accident is convicted or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in that accident.
- The person covered by limited tort insurance is injured while a passenger in a vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle. (e.g., a taxi cab, bus, a bus, taxi, Uber, Lyft, rental vehicle)
- You were hit as a pedestrian or while on a bicycle or motorcycle.
- The accident was caused by a defect in the design, manufacturing, repair or maintenance of a vehicle. The injured party bears the burden of proving negligence on the part of vehicle manufacturer, mechanic, distributor, or seller.
Keep in mind that choosing a full tort option eliminates the need to prove any of the limited tort exceptions.
Statute of Limitations
Like other personal injury actions, motor vehicle accident cases normally have a two-year statute of limitations in Pennsylvania. For medical expenses and lost wages, the statute of limitations generally begins on the day of the accident. However, for purposes of the “serious injury exception” to limited tort, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the injured party knows, or should have known, that he or she incurred a serious injury.
Qualified Legal Representation
It is critical that your lawsuit is served upon all defendants and properly filed within the required statute of limitations. Motor vehicle accident cases can be very complex, especially if they involve limited tort. Highly experienced personal injury attorneys can be invaluable in such cases. HKQ Law’s attorneys have put their experience to work for thousands of automobile accident victims, winning some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident as the result of someone else’s negligence, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1LAW to schedule your no-obligation consultation.