Folks injured in car accidents in Philadelphia often hurt their backs, whether it’s a rear-end accident, an intersection accident or a pedestrian accident. Getting financial compensation for a neck, mid back or low back injury after a car accident usually depends on:
- what type of insurance the injured party has (full tort vs. limited tort), and
- whether the back injuries are “serious” under Pennsylvania law.
In this legal article, our Philly car accident lawyers discuss the ins and outs of Pennsylvania auto accident law for back injuries after a car accident caused by another party. If you caused a car accident and were injured, the odds of receiving compensation from another party who was in the accident are pretty low. This article only applies to individuals injured in car accidents that were caused by other drivers.
Financial Compensation Depends on the Type of Car Insurance You Have
Pennsylvania auto insurance law is pretty complex, especially when it comes to making claims for financial compensation after a car accident. In most cases, whether you can get compensated for a back injury after a car accident in Philadelphia depends on the type of car insurance policy you have.
Under PA law, the type of insurance you select affects your ability to get compensated for pain and suffering damages after a car accident that was caused by another party. When you buy a car insurance policy, you’re required to choose between full tort and limited tort. The selection only affects (or limits) your ability to get compensated for pain and suffering damages. You can still make a claim for financial losses like medical bills or lost wages. The limitation on pain and suffering damages is important because the financial or monetary compensation for pain and suffering can be quite sizeable.
What’s the Difference Between Full Tort & Limited Tort?
Under a full tort policy, the insured individual can make a claim for pain and suffering without limitation. On the other hand, with a limited tort policy, the insured individual can only make a claim for pain and suffering if the circumstances of the accident meet one of the exceptions or the individual suffered a “serious injury.”
The exceptions to the limited tort law aren’t very common. The most common exceptions include situations where you get hit by someone driving a car that’s not registered in PA or you get hit by a drunk driver. Because these exceptions tend to be rare, what typically matters in limited tort cases is whether you suffered a “serious injury” which is defined under the law as “death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.” Most limited tort cases are fought or won over whether an injury amounts to a “serious impairment of body function.”
Let’s examine these principles as they relate to back injuries in a Philly car accident lawsuit.
Full Tort and Back Injuries
You’re driving to work in Philly and get rear-ended while you’re stopped at a red light in Center City. You suffer minor neck and low back injuries. Because you have a full tort policy, you get to make a claim against the at-fault driver for any pain and suffering caused by the neck and back injuries. There’s no limitation whatsoever.
Limited Tort and Back Injuries
You’re driving to a Phillies game and get hit by a driver who runs a red light and slams into you while you’re proceeding through an intersection. You suffer some pretty significant back injuries. If the other driver was driving a car that was registered in another state like New Jersey, you can make a claim for pain and suffering damages. Same thing applies if the other driver was drunk and was ultimately convicted of drunk driving or got accepted into an alternative disposition program for drunk drivers.
Are Back Injuries Serious Enough?
If none of the limited tort exceptions apply, the only way you can get financial compensation for pain and suffering from the at-fault driver is by proving that your back injuries caused a “serious impairment of body function.”
In order to prove that your back injuries were serious enough, you have to be able to show that your daily activities were affected in a serious manner. If your back injuries prevented you from walking, driving, working, etc., then they are probably serious enough to be able to get compensated for pain and suffering.
In limited tort cases, courts in Philadelphia routinely find that back and neck injuries can be serious enough to warrant compensation for pain and suffering. The key is presenting the right evidence.
Situations When the Tort Election Doesn’t Matter
There are some situations when the tort election doesn’t matter or simply doesn’t come into play. The tort election doesn’t even factor in if you’re injured in a car accident and either 1. don’t have any insurance at all (i.e., don’t own a car), or 2. aren’t covered under a relative’s car insurance policy. In such a case, you can make claims for financial compensation without any limitation.
In addition, your tort election doesn’t matter if you get hit as a pedestrian or bike rider. You have to be physically inside a car in order for the tort election to matter.
For more info, visit the Philadelphia Car Accident Injury Law Library. Contact our office for a FREE consultation to discuss your case. 215-985-0777