Pennsylvania Car Accident Law: Full Tort Insurance vs. Limited Tort Insurance
Car insurance can be tricky, especially because every state has its own laws and requirements. While purchasing insurance might seem unnecessary, state law requires every car owner to purchase liability insurance – and it’s critical to have it in the event that you are involved in a collision.
The type of car insurance you choose can have a significant impact on your ability to pursue full and fair compensation for your accident-related losses. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand how auto insurance works in PA.
You may be familiar with the concepts of “fault” and “no-fault” concerning car insurance. If not, here are the basics:
- In a no-fault state, drivers can recover compensation from their own insurance companies regardless of who was at fault for an accident. In certain cases, they can also pursue compensation from the other driver.
- In a fault state, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is typically liable for accident victims’ losses.
Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that’s neither fault nor no-fault and operates under a hybrid concept with what is called a “tort election.”
At the time of purchasing auto insurance, you’re given the option to purchase limited tort or full tort insurance. Both types of insurance allow an injured driver to recover compensation from the at-fault driver. However, the victim’s right to claim certain damages depends on the type of car insurance they choose.
Limited tort insurance coverage limits a person’s rights to seek compensation from the at-fault driver after a collision.
A limited tort claimant can file an insurance claim under their own insurance after a collision to recover certain monetary damages, like medical bills and lost wages (if the coverage was purchased). Limited tort claimants can also sue the at fault driver for economic losses – including medical bills and wage loss that exceed the coverage on the claimant’s own policy. However, injured persons with limited tort insurance are not allowed to sue for non-monetary damages, like pain and suffering, except in certain situations.
Limited tort drivers can only sue for non-monetary damages under certain circumstances. If a victim is “seriously injured” under Pennsylvania’s legal definition, they may be able to sue for non-economic damages. Additionally, other exceptions exist that create the right to sue for non-economic damages, including when the at-fault driver:
- Was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Intended to hurt the victim
- Did not have auto insurance
- Was driving a vehicle registered in a state other than Pennsylvania
Many drivers opt for limited tort insurance because it is more affordable than full tort insurance. Still, saving money on insurance payments may cost drivers money in the long run.
Drivers insured with full tort coverage do not have the same limitations that limited tort drivers have. Instead, a driver with full tort auto insurance has unrestricted protection to sue for damages from the responsible driver.
Drivers with full tort coverage have the right to sue for both economic damages, like medical bills, and non-economic damages, like pain and suffering and emotional distress. They can do so without needing to fulfill any requirements.
The state of Pennsylvania requires drivers to carry at least minimum car insurance. Insurance requirements include:
- $15,000 protection for injury or death of one person in an accident
- $30,000 protection for injury or death of more than one person in an accident
- $5,000 protection for damage to property of another person
These are simply state minimums, but unfortunately, car accident damages often far exceed these policy limits. This is one of the primary reasons injured victims are forced to file lawsuits to recover sufficient compensation.
At the time of purchasing auto insurance, drivers are given the option to pick between limited tort and full tort insurance. Drivers must specifically request limited tort insurance, as the default is full tort coverage.
When you’re injured in a car crash, do not hesitate to meet with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania car accident attorney right away. A lawyer can provide much-needed guidance regarding your auto insurance claim and potential lawsuit and assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve.
To schedule a free case evaluation with a lawyer, call our office today or contact us online.