Pennsylvania offers a number of different insurance options in addition to the mandated personal injury protection requirement. Limited tort insurance minimizes the damages that a claimant can receive, but some exceptions allow the victim to recover more damages.
Personal Injury Protection
Like several other states, Pennsylvania sought to minimize the number of civil lawsuits and the high insurance premiums by enacting mandatory personal injury protection insurance. The belief was that if the insurance companies were responsible for their own insured’s medical expenses and liability did not have to be determined, more accident victims would have their medical expenses covered, insurance companies would not argue about which party was responsible for the accident and insurance rates could be lower.
Personal injury protection covers the medical bills of the drivers involved in an automotive accident without regard to fault.
Full tort insurance allows the victim to sue for all damages including pain and suffering. It is available to individuals who were not at fault for the accident.
Insurance companies offer limited tort insurance as add-on coverage. If the driver who has limited tort insurance is injured in an accident that is not his or her fault, the victim has the choice of bringing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Limited tort limits the ability of the driver to sue for pain and suffering. However, the victim can still recover for unpaid medical bills, property damage and lost wages.
In order to recover for pain and suffering damages with limited tort insurance, the injury must be considered a “serious injury” as defined in the automotive insurance contract. A serious injury includes death, significant deformity or an impairment of body function. Therefore, even if a person is disabled because of the accident, this may not be considered a “serious injury” that would enabled the insured to pursue a claim for pain and suffering.
One of the reasons why insured individuals elect limited tort coverage over full tort is because it is less expensive, usually offering a savings of 15 percent off the premium.
Rule on Exceptions
There are several exceptions to limited tort. If an insured falls under one of the following exceptions, he or she is able to pursue a claim as if he or she had full tort insurance.
Pedestrian or Cyclist
If the victim was a pedestrian or on a bicycle and was hit by a motor vehicle, this is an exception. The individual’s automotive insurance will still provide medical coverage. However, he or she will not be subject to the limited tort provision. The rationale behind this exception is that the driver should not be penalized by limited tort when he or she was not driving his or her vehicle at the time of the accident and should not be bound by this tort option that is based on the operation of a motor vehicle.
Occupant of a Non-Private Passenger Vehicle
Another exception to limited tort is if the victim was an occupant in a vehicle that is not a private vehicle. Non-private vehicles include a business vehicle, company vehicle, commercial vehicle and buses. If the victim was a passenger or a driver in a vehicle of this nature, he or she is not subject to limited tort.
Victim of DUI or DWI
If the at-fault driver is convicted of, pleads guilty to or is placed onto Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition of DUI or DWI, the victim is not subject to limited tort. The public policy behind this exception is that the state does not want to reward drunk drivers or drivers who are under the influence of drugs by limiting their civil liability.
No Car Insurance
Similarly, the state does not want to reward drivers who do not abide by the laws to carry mandatory car insurance. If the at-fault driver did not have car insurance, the victim can pursue a lawsuit against him or her. However, uninsured drivers may be difficult to recover from because they may have limited assets and income, or they may file bankruptcy.
Additionally, if the victim brings an uninsured motorist claim against their own policy, the limited tort exception does not apply. The rationale for this is that the victim has an existing contract with his or her insurance carrier to which he or she is bound.
Vehicle from Another State
Another exception to limited tort is if the at-fault driver’s vehicle is registered in another state outside of Pennsylvania. The victim is considered full tort by exception.
Accident victims may wish to discuss their case with the Russo Law Firm, LLC, who can explain whether these or any other exceptions may apply.