Pennsylvania car owners and drivers have a critical option when buying insurance.
Auto insurance agents sell policies in two different packages: as full tort and limited tort insurance. Full tort coverage allows the policyholder to make claims for all injuries if he has been hurt in a Pennsylvania car accident through someone else’s fault. Limited tort policies—which tend to be 15 to 20 percent cheaper—permit recovery only for “economic damages” such as medical bills, lost income, and property damage.
A lot of people don’t understand this when they sign up for auto insurance in Pennsylvania. They see the price savings, say something like, “Fifteen percent cheaper? I’m in,” and check the little box on the application form to sign up for limited tort. After a serious highway accident in Dauphin County eight years later, that no longer seems like the best choice.
Limited tort insurance not only limits what you can claim from your insurance carrier after a Pennsylvania traffic injury, it also limits your rights to file a lawsuit. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the law was designed with specific exceptions, so with skillful assistance from Harrisburg car accident lawyers, you may be able to win 100 percent compensation.
The Biggest Loophole: the Serious Injury Exception
Imagine that you were covered only by limited tort insurance and that you have been hurt in a car crash that was the fault of another person. Even though you had chosen limited tort coverage, you may be able to make a claim for your pain and suffering—and any other non-economic detriments—if your injury is a serious one.
A serious injury is a “personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement,” according to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Title 75, Section 1702). However, even with this exception the injured party may still be hard-pressed to demonstrate his losses deserve full compensation. Broken bones and lengthy hospital stays do not in themselves prove that the injury was serious.
Determining whether an injury is “serious” is a question of fact that the jury must answer. For this reason, you should not consider making this claim unless you have already hired an experienced Harrisburg trial attorney who can explain your side of the story to persuade the jury members.
Other Exceptions to Limited Tort
State law also specifies other situations where the usual rules for limited tort insurance can be set aside and allow the injured party to claim all losses from an at-fault driver. Some of these exceptions include:
- Intoxicated driving – If the driver responsible for the accident is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, limited tort restrictions don’t apply.
- Out-of-state vehicles – You can seek full compensation if the negligent person was driving a car registered in another state.
- Commercial vehicles – You can file for full recovery if you were a passenger in a taxi or on a bus.
- Pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists – People walking and those on two-wheeled vehicles may seek non-economic damages.
Understanding the full provisions of the law is only the first step to securing a fair recovery. The Pennsylvania traffic accident trial attorneys at Schmidt Kramer are ready to apply their courtroom experience to getting you everything you deserve—even if you are covered by limited tort insurance. Call us at 717-888-8888 or 888-476-0807 toll-free to get your questions answered. You can schedule a free, confidential case review or request a FREE download of our report, Who Pays My Injury Claim: Understanding Joint and Several Liability.