Pennsylvania Car Accident Law – Limited Tort

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, you are given the choice of full tort or limited tort when purchasing auto insurance. If you choose limited tort, it means you give up the right to seek compensation for pain and suffering should you get into a car accident.

Understanding Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is the legal term for any physical or emotional stress caused by an injury. For example, if you break your arm in a car accident and it does not heal correctly and end up with a constant ache in your shoulder, the ache is considered pain and suffering. If glass scratches your face during a car accident, leaving you with a noticeable scar on your face and feelings of embarrassment, your emotions are considered pain and suffering. Pain and suffering even covers situations such as when you and your spouse are in an accident and your spouse suffers an injury that changes their personality and makes it difficult for them to provide you with companionship. This is referred to as loss of consortium

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Limited Tort Limitations and Exceptions

Generally, when you are in a car accident you can be compensated for doctor’s bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses due to your injury. But if you select limited tort as part of your insurance coverage, you cannot request that your insurance company pay you for the emotional aspects or the residual physical effects of your injuries. Limited tort also prevents you from seeking compensation for pain and suffering when you are injured as a passenger in someone else’s car or as a pedestrian. 

There are some exceptions to limited tort. For instance, if you can prove that your injuries are severe, you may be able to recover money for pain and suffering even though you only have limited tort coverage. However, it can be extremely difficult to show that your injuries are severe enough to overcome limited tort, as there is no standard legal definition of severe injury and the definition used by Pennsylvania courts is vague.

Benefits of Limited Tort and Full Tort

So why do many Pennsylvania drivers choose limited tort? Usually, limited tort coverage is less expensive than full tort so it lowers the overall insurance premium paid, and many people think they’ll never need it. On the other hand, full tort coverage allows you to seek compensation for pain and suffering, regardless of how severe your injuries are. Full tort coverage is often more expensive than limited tort, but it can provide peace of mind knowing that if you are in a car accident you may be compensated for your pain and suffering and not just for your out-of-pocket expenses. 

Consult a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer

If you are a Pennsylvania driver, talk to your insurance agent to determine whether you have limited tort or full tort coverage and discuss which option is best for you. If you are a Pennsylvania driver who has been in a car accident, seek the advice of a qualified personal injury attorney to discuss how limited or full tort may affect the compensation you receive for your injuries.

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