Do You Know Your Limited Tort Rights After Being Injured in a Car Accident?
May 6, 2023
Pennsylvania offers its residents both limited tort and full tort options when choosing their auto insurance policies. When drivers select full tort coverage, they have an unrestricted right to seek a full recovery for both economic and non-economic damages for car accident injuries. Pennsylvania drivers who choose a limited tort policy, however, have several hurdles to overcome before they can make a claim for pain and suffering. Auto insurance policies can be confusing without informed guidance or knowledge of the forms involved. It is not unusual for drivers to choose the less expensive option of limited tort without a full understanding of challenges they may face down the road.
Many states, including Pennsylvania, have passed tort reform laws that limit the right of plaintiffs to sue for their injuries. Pennsylvania residents bound by the limited tort option are required to provide proof of a “serious injury” or “serious impairment of bodily function” to be eligible to recover compensation for pain and suffering.
Our experienced attorneys can negotiate with insurance carriers and prove their client’s injuries are serious enough to get over a tort threshold. If you have been injured in a Pennsylvania crash and have a limited tort insurance policy, an experienced attorney can vigorously advocate for the highest possible settlement. We can help you understand your policy and rights.
What Are Exceptions to Limited Tort Restrictions?
In Pennsylvania, there are several exceptions that make limited tort restrictions or thresholds inapplicable in car accident cases. The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law provides these exceptions so that an injured victim who is insured by a limited tort policy can still recover compensation for pain and suffering.
Car accident victims with limited tort insurance policies may recover as if they had full tort coverage if:
- Defendant driver is convicted of a DUI: Limited tort does not apply if the driver at fault for the accident is convicted of driving under the influence or accepts an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program.
- Defendant’s car is registered in another state: If the at-fault driver was driving a vehicle registered in a state other than Pennsylvania, limited tort does not apply. Many car accidents in the Philadelphia area are caused by drivers with cars registered in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, or Delaware. It is not where the driver resides that controls, but rather where the car is registered.
- Plaintiff was injured while riding in a commercial vehicle: If the injured party was a passenger on a bus, taxi, rideshare vehicle, rental car, or any other type of vehicle that is not a private passenger vehicle, they may be entitled to full tort coverage, even if they have a limited tort policy.
- Plaintiff was a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcycle rider: A pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcycle rider who is injured by a vehicle is not bound by a limited tort policy. If a person crossing the street or riding a bike is hit by a car, it does not matter what they chose on their own automobile insurance policy. They may automatically receive full tort coverage.
- Defendant intended to injure themselves or someone else: These cases are rare, but a less common exception used to overcome limited tort includes is if the at-fault driver intended to injure themselves or another person. In addition, if the accident was caused by a defect in the design, manufacturing, repair, or maintenance of a vehicle, Pennsylvania courts may also make an exception.
- Defendant is an uninsured driver: Under Pennsylvania law, if the at-fault driver was uninsured at the time of the accident, the injured victim is not bound by limited tort. Injured car accident victims can file claims against their own insurance company without restrictions when the at-fault driver has not maintained financial responsibility as required by Pennsylvania law.
- Plaintiff’s insurance company fails to produce a tort election form: In Pennsylvania, every driver selecting limited tort on their insurance policy must make a proper tort election. Unless the person injured in a car accident signed a limited tort election and the insurance company can produce the form, they have full tort coverage.
- Plaintiff has a “serious impairment of a bodily function” confirmed by a medical expert: Unless the injury is deemed “serious,” each person bound by limited tort election may be prohibited from maintaining an action for any noneconomic loss.
What Is Considered a Serious Injury?
A “serious injury” is defined as “an injury resulting in death, serious impairment of a bodily function, or permanent disfigurement.” However, Pennsylvania courts have held that all injuries are unique, and even a soft tissue injury can constitute a serious injury if it is clearly documented and substantially impairs bodily function.
In determining whether a claimed impairment is serious, courts consider the following factors:
- The extent of the impairment.
- The body function that is impaired.
- The length of the time that the impairment lasts.
- The type of treatment required to correct the impairment.
- Any other relevant factors.
Pennsylvania courts have held that the focus is not only on the type of injury, but also on how the injuries affected a particular bodily function. Typically, medical testimony is needed to prove a serious injury. Our experienced attorneys can work with a team of medical experts to help prove the extent of our clients’ injuries.
Why Should I Retain Galfand Berger LLP After a Car Accident?
Limited tort cases can be complicated and require highly qualified representation. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have helped countless injured victims recover maximum compensation, even in the most difficult limited tort cases. We fight to show the severity and extent of our clients’ injuries in limited tort cases that may not fall under other exceptions. We have handled thousands of complex limited tort cases in pursuit of maximum compensation.
Some of our past cases include:
- $900,000 settlement for client injured in rental car accident. Our 75-year-old client suffered significant injuries in a Northampton County car accident involving a rental car. The insurance carrier for the rental car company attempted to deny coverage under an excess liability policy that had been purchased for the rental involved in the accident. Our client was offered $15,000 by the defendant insurance carrier to settle the case before he sought our legal services. After we filed suit, the insurance carrier eventually acknowledged that the excess insurance policy was in effect for this accident. We secured a $900,000 settlement for our client.
- $825,000 recovery for client injured in auto accident. Our client was injured when her car was struck by another driver. Only $25,000 was paid by the underinsured motorist who caused the accident. We were able to recover $400,000 from our client’s own insurance company, and then fought to obtain $400,000 more through a bad faith civil action. Notably, our client’s insurance carrier also provided a letter of apology. We recovered a total of $825,000 for our client.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Successfully Handle Limited Tort Car Accident Cases
Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have a long-standing history of recovering high financial awards on behalf of our injured clients. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, Reading, Bethlehem, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.