Chester County Tort Claim Attorney
Chester County PA Full Tort and Limited Tort Claims
If you are a Pennsylvania resident, you may be aware of the choice afforded you when you are purchasing your automobile insurance. In fact, for almost twenty-five years, Pennsylvania drivers have been given the choice between two specific types of automobile insurance coverage. You are allowed to choose full tort, which will allow you to sue for pain and suffering in the event of an automobile accident (which was due to a negligent driver), or you can choose limited tort, which will effectively forfeit your right to receive compensation for pain and suffering. Generally, choosing limited tort insurance will result in a small discount on your monthly automobile insurance premiums.
It is important to note that if you own a vehicle which is currently registered in the state of Pennsylvania, but you have no automobile insurance, you will be treated as if you chose the limited tort option, and prevented from obtaining financial recovery for pain and suffering caused by a negligent driver. The monthly savings for limited tort insurance, which is immediate and noticeable, may sound appealing, however those who have suffered automobile accidents would likely tell you recovering for your pain and suffering can be extremely important.
How Your Choice of Limited Tort or Full Tort Could Affect Others in Your Household
Your decision of whether to choose limited or full tort automobile insurance also impacts those who live with you. Resident relatives who do not own a vehicle in their own name and are not named on their own insurance policy are bound by your selection. Resident relatives include children or stepchildren, spouses, siblings, parents, stepparents, grandparents and first aunts or uncles who reside with you. Unrelated roommates or housemates, or live-in girlfriends or boyfriends (even if there are shared children) are not considered resident relatives.
Differences and Similarities in Full Tort and Limited Tort Insurance
Both full tort and limited tort automobile insurance allow an injured person who was not primarily responsible for an automobile accident to recover for any unreimbursed economic losses from the negligent party. Unreimbursed economic losses can include property damage to your vehicle, specific out-of-pocket costs, unreimbursed lost income, co-pays, deductibles, unreimbursed medical expenses and any amounts imposed by health providers as a recovery for lien. Unreimbursed medical expenses can include most all services necessary for your medical recovery (hospitals, dental, audiology, optometry, medications, prosthetics, speech pathology, chiropractic, ambulance charges, rehabilitation, surgical, psychological osteopathic, psychiatric, etc.).
Loss of income can be recovered under both types of insurance if a physician deems you unable to perform your job responsibilities. You may be able to recover lost wages, or, if you are self-employed, the cost of paying another person to perform your regular job duties. Whether you have full tort or limited tort insurance, and another person was responsible for your accident, you are entitled to have your vehicle fixed. The primary difference between full tort and limited tort insurance lies in the recovery of non-economic damages. Pain and suffering is the most common type of non-economic damage, however non-economic damages can also include loss of enjoyment of life, loss of your ability to continue your regular household duties and loss of your ability to continue with your favorite hobbies and activities.
Exceptions to Limited Tort
There are certain exceptions which would allow a victim with only limited tort insurance to recover for non-economic losses. These exceptions include:
- If the person at fault in your accident was driving a vehicle which is registered in a state other than Pennsylvania, you may be allowed to claim an exception even though you have limited tort insurance.
- If the person at fault in your accident is convicted for DUI or is accepted into Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program and had a BAC above the legal limit at the time of the accident, and that impairment was responsible for the accident and your injuries, an exception may exist.
- If your accident and subsequent injuries are the result of a defect in the design, manufacturing, repair or maintenance of your vehicle, then an exception may exist even if you only carry limited tort insurance.
- If the person at fault in your accident intended to injure himself or herself or another human being, an exception may exist. This exception depends on intention, as in most cases, when a driver intentionally causes harm to another person he or she is not covered by their own liability insurance.
- If the person at fault in your accident has no insurance or is underinsured as per Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Laws, you are entitled to pursue uninsured motorist coverage through your own insurance company, even if you only have limited tort insurance.
- If you were injured while you were a passenger in a vehicle which is not a private passenger motor vehicle (bus, commercial truck, taxi, motorcycle, pedestrian, rental vehicle, recreational vehicle, etc.) you may be entitled to pursue non-economic damages even if you only carry limited tort insurance.
- The most common exception to limited tort insurance is known as the “serious injury exception.” While this exception is the most challenging to take advantage of, it is also used more frequently than any of the other tort exceptions. A “serious injury” includes a fatality, serious impairment of a bodily function or serious, permanent disfigurement. Insurance companies will obviously dispute the existence of a serious injury, and the subject has been argued across the state of Pennsylvania for more than two decades. A jury may consider the extent of the impairment, the length of time the impairment has lasted or is expected to last, and the medical and rehabilitative treatments required to minimize or correct the effects of the impairment when deciding whether the injuries qualify as a serious injury.
While waiving your right to recover non-economic damages could sound like a good idea if you need to save money on your monthly premiums, you must weigh the amount saved versus the potential damage you could suffer in a serious car accident. Many times the effects of a car accident can change your life forever—in such a situation, you would definitely want to be fully covered, by full tort insurance. If you are not sure which type of automobile insurance you have, check your insurance policy. Call your agent, and ask questions. Find out what rights you might be giving up by choosing limited tort insurance. If you have suffered a serious automobile accident due to the negligence of another and you only carry limited tort insurance, speak to a knowledgeable Pennsylvania attorney in order to determine whether your accident might fall under one of the exceptions.
Contact Our Experienced Pennsylvania Attorneys
The Philadelphia personal injury attorneys of Ciccarelli Law Offices have successfully represented individuals throughout the state of Pennsylvania that have been injured because of another person’s negligence. Our Chester County based law firm is based at 304 North High Street, West Chester PA 19380 and serves clients in Kennett Square, Downingtown, West Chester, Coatesville, Exton, Chester Springs, Chadds Ford, Landenberg, Honey Brook, Oxford, Malvern, Parkesburg, Phoenixville and Paoli. Contact us now at (610) 692-8700 or call toll free (877) 529-2422. Don’t wait—contact an attorney immediately.