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October 26th, 2016

Limited Tort & Rear End Auto Accidents in Pennsylvania – Are the Injuries Serious Enough to Get Compensated?

Too often, a PA resident’s ability to obtain full compensation is adversely affected by something known as “limited tort,” especially in rear end accident cases. Rear end auto accidents are not usually thought of as being serious accidents, but they certainly can be. It all depends on the speed of the striking vehicle and other factors like whether there was a second impact. Some rear end accidents can be very serious, such as when the striking car pushes the other car into an intersection.

Limited Tort May Lower Financial Compensation in PA Auto Accidents

Limited tort affects your ability to receive financial compensation for pain and suffering damages, but it does not affect the ability to get compensated for financial losses like medical bills or lost wages.

When you’re injured in an accident that’s someone else’s fault, whether you can get full financial recovery depends on your own insurance policy. If you have limited tort on your own auto insurance policy, you can only recover for pain and suffering damages if either of the following are true: 1. the accident falls into one of the categories allowed by law (i.e., hit by a drunk driver, out of state driver, etc.), or 2. the injuries were “serious,” as defined under Pennsylvania’s limited tort law.

This article will focus on serious injuries and limited tort and will not discuss the exceptions to the limited tort rule. For more info about limited tort in Pennsylvania or its exceptions, visit our limited tort law practice page.

As auto accident lawyers in Pennsylvania, we see many individuals who end up facing tough legal battles due to the tort election in their auto insurance policies. Limited tort in PA lowers auto insurance premiums, but when it comes time to make an auto injury claim, limited tort can end up limiting your financial recovery. This is especially true in low impact auto accidents or when the injuries are not serious.

Serious Injury

In a Pennsylvania rear end accident case where the injured party has a limited tort auto policy, whether the individual will receive full financial recovery often depends on the extent of injuries. The injuries must meet a certain threshold and rise to the level of a “serious impairment of a body function.” There is no requirement that the injuries be permanent. Instead, the focus is on the medical treatment and whether the symptoms had a serious impact on the individual’s personal and work life.

Rear end injuries like spinal injuries can absolutely be considered serious enough under Pennsylvania limited tort law. Pennsylvania courts routinely find in favor of individuals injured in rear end auto accidents. Whether it’s a cervical neck injury or a lumbar low back injury, the key is showing that the individual’s ability to resume normal activities was impacted in a serious way. Medical records, particularly diagnostic test results, documenting the injuries and treatment are critical.

Pre-Existing Injuries – Same Body Part

What happens when the injured individual has a pre-existing injury? In some cases, the injured individual will reinjure a body part that was previously hurt in a prior accident or due to old age. For example, an old knee injury that flares up after a rear end accident can be considered serious under PA limited tort law. The key is differentiating the new medical treatment from the old treatment. Pre and post accident x-rays, MRI and CT scan results can be helpful to show that an old injury was aggravated and therefore caused by the recent accident.

If you’ve been injured in a car or truck accident in Pennsylvania, contact our Pennsylvania and New Jersey auto accident lawyers for a free consultation.

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