Tort Election in Pennsylvania – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Time and time again, in our PA and NJ auto law practice, we see individuals who elected limited tort get shut out of getting fair compensation for their injuries. The tort election is one of the most critical options when buying an auto insurance policy in Pennsylvania. It’s something that most residents of Pennsylvania don’t know anything about. Some insurance agents gloss over it and some never take the time to explain it. Rather, it’s often couched in terms of the cheapest policy because full tort costs more than limited tort.
What is a Tort Election?
Under Pennsylvania’s auto insurance law, the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, every car insurance policy issued in this state must be either a full tort or limited tort policy. This only applies to policies for private passenger motor vehicles, not commercial vehicles or motorcycles. Basically, this applies to household auto policies, or those for individuals, couples, families, etc.
The tort election is a form of insurance that will affect the insured party’s right to seek financial compensation for any injuries caused by another driver. In other words, the tort election on your own policy affects your legal rights to compensation when you’re injured due to the negligence of another driver.
How Does Limited Tort Affect You & Your Family?
Under the limited tort form of car insurance, you and members of your household who are covered under the policy (spouse/child) may seek recovery for all economic expenses, but not for pain and suffering damages unless 1. the injuries fall within the definition of “serious injury,” or 2. one of the other legal exceptions applies.
Here’s an example which shows how limited tort works. You are injured in a car accident in Pennsylvania. The other driver ran a red light and t-boned your car. You sustained shoulder injuries which required some physical therapy. You were out of work for a few weeks due to the pain. With limited tort, you cannot recover for your pain and suffering unless the injuries are deemed “serious” or the accident falls under one of six exceptions under PA limited tort law.
In this scenario, the injuries are not serious, i.e., they did not cause serious impairment of a body function or permanent serious disfigurement. Also, none of the six exceptions apply. Therefore, your only legal recourse against the other driver is for your economic expenses, such as medical bills and out of pocket expenses. If you had elected full tort, you would retain all legal rights against the other driver. You could seek compensation for both economic expenses and your pain and suffering.
What To Do If You Have Limited Tort
If you have limited tort on your policy now, don’t despair. Just because you have limited tort now doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. Shop around, and get quotes each year. Each year, auto insurance prices change. If you get a good quote on a full tort policy, you can always ask your current car insurance company to match the quote or come close.
For more info, please visit our Pennsylvania and New Jersey auto accident law library. To discuss a car accident case in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, call our law offices at (866) 641-0806.
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.