Pennsylvania offers different insurance options in addition to the mandated personal injury protection requirement which covers the medical bills of the drivers involved in an automotive accident without regard to fault. One of the most important choices one has to make when picking their insurance plan is deciding if they want Full Tort or Limited Tort on their policy. This choice will determine the extent one can sue another driver for damages after an accident. Because the insurance companies often do not do a good job of explaining these options to the insured and because the Full Tort or Limited Tort option does not become relevant until after one is injured in an accident, many people do not have a full understanding how of what these Tort options mean. This article will try to explain what these Tort options mean and help you to decide what option is better for you when you are deciding your next insurance plan.
Full Tort insurance allows the victim of a car accident to sue for all damages including pain and suffering no matter how minor the injury. It is available to individuals who were not at fault for the accident.
Insurance companies offer Limited Tort insurance as add-on coverage. 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. If the driver who has Limited Tort insurance is injured in an accident that is not his or her fault, the victim still has the choice of bringing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. However, Limited Tort limits the ability of the driver to sue for pain and suffering. 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.
While Limited Tort insurance minimizes the damages that a claimant can receive, there are some exceptions that allow the victim to recover more damages.
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 determine what Tort option the person has chosen and if it is Limited Tort we can explain whether these or any other exceptions may apply. Please call the firm today at 267-251-4040 with any questions about Insurance Tort Options.