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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 youve been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident as the result of someone elses negligence, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1LAW to schedule your no-obligation consultation.

About HKQ Law

HKQ Law is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nine attorneys at HKQ Law were recently named to the 2019 Best Lawyers List and has been designated a Tier 1 Best Law Firm for personal injury, medical malpractice litigation labor law and corporate law in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history on behalf of injured clients. The firm was also recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A. Quinn is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



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