What is Limited Tort in Philadelphia?
It’s an issue many Philadelphia residents learn about only when it’s too late: limited tort. In a nutshell, every auto insurance policy issued in this state is either a limited tort or full tort policy. The difference between these two policies is very important and affects an injured driver or passenger’s ability to sue for pain and suffering damages.
If you elected limited tort, your ability to get financial compensation for pain and suffering is limited under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL). You can still make a claim for financial losses like medical bills, lost wages and other out of pocket expenses.
On the other hand, if you elected full tort, there is no such limitation on your ability to sue an at-fault driver for pain and suffering damages. Choosing limited tort significantly lowers the cost of auto insurance. The reality is that in Philadelphia, where auto insurance premiums are already high, many Philadelphia residents choose limited tort just to get a cost break.
Limited Tort Exceptions
There are several exceptions to the limited tort election under 75 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 1705(d) (see below for the full text of section 1705(d)).
- You suffered a “serious injury,” which is defined as “a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.”
- The at-fault driver is convicted of a DUI or DWI, or otherwise accepts a DUI alternative disposition program.
- The at-fault driver is operating a motor vehicle registered in another state.
- The at-fault driver was intentionally trying to cause injury to themselves or others.
- The at-fault driver does not have any insurance (i.e., was joy riding).
- The case involves a claim against a business and is related to a defective condition of a motor vehicle (i.e., a products liability claim or negligent maintenance claim).
- An individual otherwise bound by the limited tort election shall retain full tort rights if injured while an occupant of a motor vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle. You’re injured while a passenger in a commercial vehicle (bus, taxi, etc.).
In addition, Pennsylvania courts have held that pedestrians are not bound by their tort elections. Therefore, someone who is walking across the street in Philadelphia and gets hit by a car will not be bound by their tort election and can get compensated for pain and suffering.
NJ Deemer Statute – Negates Full Tort for PA Drivers When Driving in New Jersey
It is worth noting that a special New Jersey law known as the “deemer statute” applies to Pennsylvania residents who are driving in New Jersey and get injured in auto accidents. If you have full tort and are injured while driving a car in New Jersey, the deemer statute will probably apply. It applies if your car insurance company does business in New Jersey. This means that you will be deemed to be the equivalent of limited tort in New Jersey, which is “limitation on lawsuit” or “verbal threshold.” Unfortunately, New Jersey’s limitation on lawsuit tort election is much more restrictive than in Pennsylvania.
If you have limited tort and were injured in a car accident in Philadelphia, it is vital that you speak to an injury lawyer immediately to protect your legal rights. Call our office and get a free consultation. (866) 641-0806 (Philadelphia office, Walnut Street)
75 PA C.S. Section 1705(d) Limited tort alternative. [*current as of February 10, 2015]
Each person who elects the limited tort alternative remains eligible to seek compensation for economic loss sustained in a motor vehicle accident as the consequence of the fault of another person pursuant to applicable tort law. Unless the injury sustained is a serious injury, each person who is bound by the limited tort election shall be precluded from maintaining an action for any noneconomic loss, except that:
(1) An individual otherwise bound by the limited tort election who sustains damages in a motor vehicle accident as the consequence of the fault of another person may recover damages as if the individual damaged had elected the full tort alternative whenever the person at fault:
(i) is convicted or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in that accident;
(ii) is operating a motor vehicle registered in another state;
(iii) intends to injure himself or another person, provided that an individual does not intentionally injure himself or another person merely because his act or failure to act is intentional or done with his realization that it creates a grave risk of causing injury or the act or omission causing the injury is for the purpose of averting bodily harm to himself or another person; or
(iv) has not maintained financial responsibility as required by this chapter, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall affect the limitation of section 1731(d)(2) (relating to availability, scope and amount of coverage).
(2) An individual otherwise bound by the limited tort election shall retain full tort rights with respect to claims against a person in the business of designing, manufacturing, repairing, servicing or otherwise maintaining motor vehicles arising out of a defect in such motor vehicle which is caused by or not corrected by an act or omission in the course of such business, other than a defect in a motor vehicle which is operated by such business.
(3) An individual otherwise bound by the limited tort election shall retain full tort rights if injured while an occupant of a motor vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle.
DISCLAIMER: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer prior to making any decision about your case. Read full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
Page last updated: October 7, 2016