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January 8th, 2016

PA Car Accident Law – Limited Tort Exceptions and Serious Injuries

FAQ: I was in a car accident in Philadelphia and have limited tort on my auto insurance policy. I was told that I cannot sue the other driver who caused the accident unless my injuries are serious. I fractured my wrist as a result of the injury. Is that considered serious?

Answer: In general, Pennsylvania drivers who have limited tort and are injured in car accidents may not sue the at-fault drivers for pain and suffering damages unless an exception applies. You are correct in that one of those exceptions applies if drivers suffer a “serious injury.” However, limited tort doesn’t prohibit claims for economic expenses like medical bills, lost wages or out of pocket expenses. Injured drivers with limited tort just can’t sue for pain and suffering damages.

Other than the “serious injury” exception, there are other exceptions under Pennsylvania auto insurance and car accident laws that allow limited tort drivers to sue at-fault drivers. If the circumstances of your car accident falls under one of those exceptions, you can sue the other driver regardless of the severity of your injury. Some of those exceptions include:

  • the at-fault driver is convicted or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in the accident,
  • the at-fault driver’s car is registered in another state,
  • the at-fault driver does not have auto insurance, or
  • the at-fault driver intended to injure himself or someone else.

Related: Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer Discusses Misconceptions About Limited Tort

If you do not fall under any of the exceptions, then you may only sue for pain and suffering if your injuries are “serious.”

The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) defines serious injury as an injury that results in death, serious impairment of a body function or permanent serious disfigurement. However, the law does not further define serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.

As a result, what constitutes a serious injury is one of the most debated issues in Philadelphia car accident lawsuits. Pennsylvania courts often look to see what body function is impaired because of the injuries. They also look to see if the impairment of the body function is serious. Further, Pennsylvania courts often look at the effect the injury has on the victim in addition to the injury itself. Therefore, each case is different, and we would need more information from you regarding your injuries.

For instance, if you are a hairstylist, your wrist injury can significantly impair your ability to work. You may not be able to perform your job due to the pain in your wrist when you are holding a blow dryer or cutting a customer’s hair. On the other hand, if your job does not require you to move your wrist very much, the injury may not present a significant impairment.

Because every case is different, it is best that you consult with a PA car accident lawyer to properly evaluate your case. We offer FREE consultations.

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Page last updated: October 7, 2016