Limited tort is a term most Philadelphia residents don’t ever want to hear. Unfortunately, the reality is that many people in Philadelphia purchased limited tort auto insurance policies and most people don’t even know what it means.
Limited tort is a special election made on your own car insurance policy. The election limits your ability to sue another driver for injuries after an auto accident. The alternative is full tort which, like its name suggests, carries no such limitation.
Under PA car insurance law, individuals with limited tort policies cannot sue for pain and suffering damages unless the accident or injuries fall within certain categories. The most commonly litigated limited tort exception category is the “serious injury” category. If your injuries are serious (i.e., caused a serious impairment of body function), you may be able to sue and get compensated for pain and suffering.
Proving an Auto Injury is Serious
Determining whether an injury caused a serious impairment depends on the specific facts of the case. In order to show that an injury is serious, you must be able to prove that your life (home, work, hobbies, etc.) is affected in a significant way.
In addition, because everyone’s life circumstances are different, what is serious for one person will not be serious for another. For example, a truck driver and office worker would probably be affected differently by the same low back injury . The truck driver’s ability to drive a truck for long periods of time may be affected seriously, whereas the office worker can resume working without any major problems.
Here are two different examples to demonstrate how limited tort works in the context of a serious injury.
Example 1, Serious Injury: You are injured in a car accident in Philadelphia due to no fault of your own. You break your right arm and have surgery. Due to the nature of the fracture, a screw and several pins are placed in your arm. You work in construction and because of the injury, you can’t work for several weeks, which turns into months due to complications. When you do try to go back to work, you’re on limited duty because you just can’t lift over 25 pounds with your right arm.
Here, the limited tort election would probably be overcome because the injuries are serious; they significantly affect the individual’s ability to work.
Example 2, No Serious and Permanent Injury: You are injured in a car accident on Roosevelt Boulevard in northeast Philadelphia. It’s a serious crash, but you are relatively uninjured. You have a strained neck which requires some chiropractic treatment. After 2 weeks, your neck feels much better and you have no residual pain symptoms. You are able to resume the same level of activity that you enjoyed prior to the accident.
Here, the limited tort election would not be overcome because the injuries are not serious. Therefore, the individual in example 2 would not be able to sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering damages. In other words, there is no financial compensation for pain and suffering.
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Page last updated: October 7, 2016