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August 3rd, 2015

What Does Limited Tort Have to Do with Your Philadelphia Car Accident?

Do you know what kind of insurance coverage you have on your PA auto insurance policy? You might want to look at your policy and see what type of coverage you have. You want to make sure you have the right type of coverage on your auto insurance before it is too late and you’re injured in a car accident in Philadelphia.

There are two things that insured PA drivers should look for in their auto insurance policy:

  1. whether they have limited tort or full tort, and
  2. whether they have underinsured/uninsured (UIM/UM) coverage.

What is Limited Tort?

When drivers buy auto insurance policies, they must choose between limited tort and full tort. Many drivers do not know the difference between these two types of coverages and base their decision on how much they save on their annual premium. Limited tort decreases auto insurance premiums significantly and many drivers choose limited tort to save money. However, what they don’t know is that they are basically signing away their rights to pursue a car accident lawsuit if they are injured in a Pennsylvania car accident, i.e., they cannot sue for non-economic damages, also known as pain and suffering damages.

However, there are exceptions to limited tort that allow drivers with limited tort to recover non-economic damages. Some of these exceptions are the following:

  • the at-fault driver is operating an out of state vehicle,
  • the at-fault driver is convicted or accepts ARD for driving under the influence, and
  • the injured individual is injured while an occupant of a commercial vehicle.

Another exception to limited tort is if the injured driver sustains a “serious” injury, which is defined by the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL). A “serious” injury as “[a] personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.”

Therefore, if an injured driver has limited tort and sustains a “serious” injury, he is deemed to have full tort. He can sue the at-fault driver for non-economic damages.

However, the law does not further define “serious impairment of body function” and “permanent serious disfigurement.” Therefore, what is a “serious” injury is one of the most contested and litigated issues in Philadelphia car accident lawsuits. Courts look to the facts, evidence and circumstances of each case to determine whether the injured party suffered a “serious” injury.

In many instances, injuries that are not deemed serious under Pennsylvania case law are serious for the injured individuals and can significantly affect their lives. That’s why it’s important to elect full tort instead of limited tort.

For instance, a driver with limited tort is rear-ended by a car at an intersection in Philadelphia. As a result, the driver sustains soft tissue injuries in her back and neck. MRIs do not show any herniated discs. The driver has physical therapy for 6 months and reaches maximum medical recovery at the end of 6 months. This does not mean she is 100% recovered; rather, it means that her condition is not going to improve any further with any subsequent medical treatment. However, her neck and back are not the same as before.

The injured driver is an office administrative assistant and sits for most of the day. After sitting at her desk for a couple of hours, she often experiences pain and discomfort in her back. Further, she no longer takes aerobic classes because the high intensity impact exercises hurt her neck and back.

Because she has limited tort, she will not be able to sue the other driver for her pain and suffering because it is going to be difficult for the injured driver to prove that her injuries are serious under Pennsylvania case law. Her MRIs do not show any abnormal findings, and she only had 6 months of physical therapy. If she had full tort, she would have been able to sue the at-fault driver for her injuries and pain and suffering regardless of the severity of her injuries.

What is UIM/UM Coverage?

The other important coverage every insured driver should have is UIM/UM coverage. UIM protects the injured driver when the other driver’s liability coverage is not enough to financially compensate the injured driver. For instance, the at-fault driver has the minimum state required liability coverage of $15,000, and the injured driver sustains a permanent brain injury rendering him disabled and unable to work for the rest of his life. If the injured driver has $500,000 in UIM coverage, he can make a UIM claim with his own insurance company because the other driver is underinsured and does not have enough liability coverage to compensate the injured driver.   If the injured driver did not have UIM coverage, the maximum he would be able to recover from the at-fault driver’s insurance company is $15,000.

UM coverage comes into play when the at-fault driver does not have any auto insurance coverage. UM coverage also protects the injured insured driver if the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident, i.e., a hit and run accident.

Help After a Philadelphia, PA Car Accident

If you or a loved one was injured an auto accident in Philadelphia or the surrounding suburbs, such as Montgomery County, Chester County or Bucks County, call the car accident lawyers at Laffey Bucci & he to schedule a FREE consultation. (866) 641-0806

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Page last updated: October 7, 2016