When purchasing auto insurance in Pennsylvania, consumers have a choice. Pennsylvania law allows insurance carriers to offer both “full tort” and “limited tort” insurance. They are very different kinds of insurance, and as the word “limited” indicates, your rights under such a policy would be restricted if you were hurt in an accident. However, some “limited tort” policies are advertised as providing “full coverage,” which simply is not the case and can mislead the buyer into thinking they have the equivalent of “full tort” coverage.
The truth is, if you are buying auto insurance under a “limited tort” policy in Pennsylvania, you are not receiving full coverage in the event of an accident.
WHAT IS LIMITED TORT INSURANCE?
Under a full tort policy, a driver or passenger in an auto accident that was not their fault can sue for the full array of their damages, including pain and suffering. Limited tort under Pennsylvania insurance law means your right (and the right of your family members) to seek financial compensation for injuries caused by another driver is limited to only certain types of losses. If you opt for limited tort, you are also limited in seeking compensation when involved in an accident with an uninsured or someone who flees the scene.
Under a limited tort policy, you can seek recovery from your insurance carrier for medical costs and loss of income, but not for pain and suffering or other nonmonetary damages. That “limit” of your right to pursue pain and suffering or other non-monetary damages can be overcome if you show that you have suffered a “serious injury.” This can be challenging, if not impossible, to prove.
WHAT IS PAIN AND SUFFERING?
Pain and suffering is a legal term that refers to several types of mental and physical injuries that someone may suffer as a result of an accident. It includes physical pain and emotional and mental afflictions like:
- loss of enjoyment of life
HOW DO YOU PROVE SERIOUS INJURY TO FULLY RECOVER?
Under a limited tort insurance policy, your right to ask for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages rests on your ability to prove you have suffered a “serious injury.” Under Pennsylvania law, serious injury means a significant deformity or a serious impairment of bodily function. The burden of establishing that you have sustained these sorts of traumas creates an often-insurmountable obstacle under “limited tort” policies.
Insurance companies in Pennsylvania have prevailed in denying pain and suffering claims for broken bones ruptured discs and even permanent physical disabilities under limited tort policies. Many auto accidents result in a sprain or strain of muscles, tendons, or ligaments, known as “soft tissue” injuries. These soft tissue wounds can be very painful and debilitating and may take a long time to heal. They can also keep you from working during the healing process and might impact your ability to work for the rest of your life.
Yet, most doctors—the expert witnesses in these sorts of cases—would not say the soft tissue injury constitutes a serious impairment of a bodily function because it is not sufficiently catastrophic and permanently debilitating to meet the standard. With such an injury under a limited tort insurance policy, you will not likely be able to recover from your pain and suffering or other non-monetary damages.
Typically, purchasing a limited tort policy versus a full tort policy saves you about 10 percent in premiums, yet if you end up in an accident, those savings could end up costing you dearly.
Auto accidents are extremely common occurrences. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s statistics for the most recent reported year, 14 crashes per hour occur statewide, with 9 people injured every hour, translating to over 200 victims every day. In a year, over 76,000 people are injured, with another 1,000-plus killed, in Pennsylvania auto crashes. Of all auto accident injuries statewide, two-thirds are classified as minor or merely “possible,” with their true impact only later coming to light.
Serious injuries of the kind necessary to prove under a limited tort insurance claim are a tiny minority, making up only around 6% of all auto collision injuries reported. This means that almost everyone hurt in a vehicle accident with limited tort coverage would be denied compensation for their pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages in Pennsylvania. A full tort policy clearly is the way to go and makes all the difference in the unfortunate event you ever have to use it.
Consumers need to look beyond the “cheap” or discount policy to be sure they are getting meaningful coverage. For example, if you purchase a limited tort auto policy with $100,000/$300,000 liability and uninsured motorist limits and then are rear-ended in traffic, with the at-fault driver fleeing the scene or uninsured, leaving you with a hairline arm fracture and a ruptured disc, you can experience plenty of pain and suffering. And recover nothing for it.
When you add up your monthly premiums, a limited tort policy costs plenty of money, with questionable coverage. If you purchase full tort coverage, you are fully protected and may recover for your pain and suffering damages.
WHAT A PHILADELPHIA PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER CAN DO FOR YOU IF YOU ARE INJURED
Here at the Philadelphia Law Offices Bernard M. Gross, P.C, we specialize in helping people injured in vehicle accidents get the full compensation they deserve. For over 60 years, our team of expert attorneys has assisted injured people and their families who have been harmed by the negligence of others. As a full-service law firm, we shepherd our clients through the legal process, allowing the injured person to focus on healing instead of the stress of litigation and fighting with insurance companies.
We offer free consultations with no obligation, and we are ready for your call at 215-935-4511. You can reach out to us any time at email@example.com. We know how to handle your case and we care about your rights.