Limited Tort v. Full Tort Car Insurance: PA Drivers Need to Know the Difference

In our last posting, we reviewed potential dangers for companies (LLC’s and incorporated businesses) who fail to comply with state requirements for limited liability protections. In today’s post we’ll look at the threat of individual damages sustained in a motor vehicle accident which may be non-compensable based on that individual’s choice of automobile insurance coverage, and ways to minimize your potential exposure to this risk.

Car crashIn Pennsylvania, auto insurance companies are required to provide consumers with a choice between “full tort” coverage and “limited tort” coverage. “Limited tort” means you have a limited right to claim damages from an at-fault driver causing a motor vehicle accident for pain and suffering and other damages which are not out of pocket losses, such as medical bills, wage loss and property damage. The insurance premiums for limited tort coverage are usually less expensive than full tort coverage; however, the selection of limited tort has the potential to cost consumers significantly more in the event they are involved in an accident.

However, there are exceptions to limited tort which would permit you to recover damages for pain, suffering and other non-monetary damages, even if you elected limited tort coverage: (1) If you are struck by a motor vehicle while a pedestrian or operating a bicycle; (2) if you are an occupant of a “non-private passenger” vehicle (e.g. a commercial vehicle); (3) if the at-fault driver is convicted, pleads guilty or is placed in ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (probation)) for driving under the Influence of alcohol or drugs; (4)if the at-fault driver’s vehicle is registered in a state other than Pennsylvania; (5) if the at-fault driver is uninsured; and (6) if you suffer a “serious injury.” A “serious injury” is defined as “death, serious impairment of bodily function or permanent serious disfigurement.” Whether or not your suffer a “serious impairment” or “serious disfigurement” is determined by a number of factors.

It is also important to note that the person making the tort election binds all relatives residing in the same household by that election if they don’t have their own policy. In addition, if you own a motor vehicle which is not insured you are automatically deemed to have limited tort.

We suggest that you take a look at your auto insurance policy and discuss with your agent or insurance company the election you have on your current policy. In Auto Insurancereviewing your policy, be aware that “Full Coverage” does not mean the same as “Full Tort Coverage.” Also note that there are other ways to reduce your premiums. For example, if you have personal health insurance, you may want to consider reducing the amount of medical coverage under your auto policy. You can also remove unnecessary coverage (i.e. collision for an older vehicle which has a low re-sale value) or increase your deductibles on the existing coverage.

This area of insurance law can be complicated, and each nuance cannot be addressed in one post. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our personal injury attorneys – Bruce D. Hess, Esquire, Michael W. Cassidy, Esquire and Dennis R. Meakim, Esquire for more information.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.


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