Summary: If you have limited tort, can you get monetary compensation for your injuries, i.e., pain and suffering? The facts will determine your compensation. Were you a pedestrian or riding a motorcycle? Did you suffer a “serious injury”? What’s the status of the at-fault driver (DUI, out of state registration, etc.)?
Philadelphia Car Accident Insurance Law – What’s the Tort Election?
When you buy car insurance in Pennsylvania, you will be required to make a tort election. The tort election is one of the most important components of car insurance in PA, and it’s also something most people don’t fully understand until it’s too late, i.e., they get injured in a car accident and have to file a car accident lawsuit.
Full Tort vs. Limited Tort
There are only two tort elections – full tort and limited tort. They only come into play when you’re injured in a car or truck accident that is caused by another driver. The tort election affects (and can limit) your legal rights to get compensated for pain and suffering.
Most PA residents learn about their tort election for the first time after they get into an accident, and it’s a difficult concept to understand. It tends to be counterintuitive.
Most folks injured in car accidents assume that the at-fault driver is on the hook totally and without limitation. That’s where they are wrong, especially when it comes to the tort election on their own car insurance policies. The tort election in Pennsylvania was designed to affect an insured’s legal rights to sue for auto injuries caused by another driver. In other words, you might be limited in what you can recover, and it depends on the tort election on YOUR OWN policy, not the at-fault driver’s policy. The reason for this highly confusing part of PA’s auto accident law is to make car insurance more affordable. Full tort policies cost more than limited tort policies. Now, let’s examine how the two elections work.
Pennsylvania residents who choose full tort won’t encounter any limitations with respect to their legal rights to seek compensation. For example, a Philadelphia resident who elects full tort is injured in a car accident caused by another driver. The individual sustains back injuries which take a few months to resolve. Even though the injuries aren’t that serious, i.e., didn’t cause any time lost from work, the individual can seek financial compensation for all pain and suffering from the injuries, as well as any out of pocket medical bills/expenses, lost wages, etc.
Limited Tort – Negatively Affects Your Rights Against the At-Fault Driver
However, those who elect limited tort get treated differently. There’s an entire body of law relating to limited tort in Pennsylvania, and it’s incredibility complex. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of court cases and judicial opinions about what limited tort is, how/when it applies, and what the exceptions are (and there are quite a few).
The limited tort election can limit an insured’s ability to get fully compensated for injuries sustained in a car accident that was caused by another driver. A limited tort driver or passenger can still seek financial losses from the at-fault driver, such as medical bills and lost wages. However, they might not be able to make a claim for any pain and suffering damages (AKA: non-economic damages).
Limited Tort Lawsuit Result: Client suffered a head injury and neck injury in a rear end accident in Northeast Philadelphia. Firm founder Jordan Namerow recovered the maximum permitted under the at-fault driver’s car insurance policy by successfully arguing that the client suffered a “serious injury.” Read more here.
Exceptions to Limited Tort Law
There are multiple exceptions to limited tort law. This means that if your situation fits into one of the exceptions, you’re not bound by limited tort law; you can make a claim for pain and suffering, just like you would have if you had a full tort policy. Here’s a brief explanation of the exceptions:
- You suffered a “serious injury” as defined under PA auto injury law.
- You were injured while occupying a vehicle that is not a “private passenger motor vehicle” (i.e., a motorcycle, bus, commercial car, etc.).
- The at-fault driver gets convicted of a DUI or gets into an DUI offender court program.
- The at-fault driver was driving a vehicle registered in another state.
- The at-fault driver was trying to intentionally injure you or another person.
- The owner of the car driven by the at-fault driver didn’t have any insurance.
Using the same example as above, let’s examine whether the injured driver can make a claim if they had a limited tort policy. Unless one of the exceptions apply, the driver won’t be able to recover for pain and suffering damages. The facts don’t support exceptions 2 through 6 above. It’s possible that the driver suffered a “serious injury” which is defined as “death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.”
Proving death or a permanent serious disfigurement is fairly straightforward. Most limited tort cases boil down to whether an injury constitutes a “serious impairment of body function.” The key issue is how an injury affected the individual’s ability to live their usual and ordinary lives (home, family, work and social). Did the injuries cause the individual to lose time from work, other than attending medical appointments? Did the injuries result in significant changes to home or family life?
In the example, the individual suffered back injuries which took a few months to resolve. Since no time was lost from work, and the injuries didn’t otherwise cause any major problems in the individual’s home or family life, it’s unlikely that the back injuries would be deemed “serious.” Therefore, pain and suffering damages would probably be denied.
Visit our Car Accident Law Library for more info.
Philadelphia Car Accident Law Firm – Limited Tort Injuries Accepted
Our firm handles car and truck accident cases throughout the Philadelphia area including the suburbs. We have successfully handled numerous limited tort cases and recovered six figure settlements for our limited tort clients. Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION at (215) 985-0777.