Reviewing Your Pennsylvania Auto Insurance Policy: Full Tort vs. Limited Tort

full tort vs. limited tort

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort: Why Paying a Little More Money Now Could Be Worth Thousands Later

Drivers in Pennsylvania have a lot to think about when it comes to choosing insurance coverage. I recently wrote two blogs about reviewing your Pennsylvania auto insurance policy. The first included a list of the types of coverage we recommend at Edgar Snyder & Associates, and the second described Bodily Injury Liability and Medical Expense Benefits.

One of the most important decisions you can make as a driver in Pennsylvania is to choose Full Tort instead of Limited Tort on your auto insurance policy. Why? In today's blog, I'll explain how Full Tort helps to protect your financial security and your legal rights.

Full Tort

Choosing Full Tort on your auto insurance policy allows you (or anyone listed on the policy) to file a claim to get compensation for pain and suffering for car accident injuries, assuming that someone else is at fault for the accident.

"Pain and suffering" – what does this really mean?

  • Pain and suffering (past and future) – This includes any past and future physical pain, mental anguish, discomfort, inconvenience, and stress.
  • Embarrassment and humiliation – This covers anything caused by the crash that could leave the victim feeling ashamed of their injuries, like burns, paralysis, and amputation.
  • Enjoyment of life – This compensation is for victims who have lost enjoyment of the pleasures of life due to the car accident.
  • Disfigurement – This represents any scars or permanent damage caused by an accident or the surgery necessary to treat the car accident injuries.

Choosing Full Tort on your policy does increase your premium more than choosing Limited Tort, but it could mean you receive thousands of dollars more if you're injured in an auto accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian.

Limited Tort

On the other hand, with Limited Tort you and other family members listed on your policy will not be able to receive compensation for pain and suffering if you're injured in an accident.

Exceptions include:

  • Your injuries are considered ‘serious.' Don't assume insurance companies will think your injuries are serious, even if you believe they are. You'd be amazed at what the insurance company doesn't consider "serious." For example, you may have broken your jaw bone in an accident, been hospitalized for six days, and had your mouth wired shut for 14 weeks. Or, you may have broken your back and missed work for several weeks, but they may not consider that situation serious either.
  • The person at fault for the accident is convicted with a DUI or a controlled substance, or they accept Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). Also, if you're injured by a drunk driver who dies in the accident, you can't collect for pain and suffering since they can't be convicted of driving under the influence. It may not seem fair, but unfortunately this is quite common, and you could end up paying the price.
  • The at-fault driver is driving a vehicle that is registered in another state.
  • You were injured in an accident while driving or riding in a commercial vehicle.

I've seen firsthand over the past 40+ years how much car accident victims suffer. The accident may be a one-time event, but the effects can last for years or even be permanent. If you're still not sure what ‘pain and suffering' means, read these examples of Limited Tort horror stories:

Single Mother is Unable to Collect for Pain and Suffering
A woman who was involved in a car accident called our law office. She had a serious injury and was in real pain. Unfortunately, she had chosen Limited Tort on her insurance policy, and her injury wasn't considered "serious" enough to allow her to collect for pain and suffering. She kept saying that she was a single mother who needed to work, but she was unable to work right now because of her injury. She was afraid of losing her job. Sadly, there was absolutely nothing we could do under Pennsylvania law to help her because of her Limited Tort coverage.

What Can Happen When Limited Tort Isn't Explained to a Policy Holder
A man contacted our law firm about an injury he had sustained in a car accident. He said that he had Limited Tort on his car insurance, but that it was never properly explained to him. His insurance agent had told him he would still be able to sue for pain and suffering for a "serious" injury. However, he was never told how strict the exceptions are, or how serious the injury would have to be to collect for pain and suffering under Limited Tort. In many cases, you can't receive any compensation for your injuries under Limited Tort. You could even be unable to work for 3 or 4 months with an injury, and still not overcome the Limited Tort issue.

A 9-Year-Old Accident Victim Can't Collect for His Injuries
A woman called about an auto accident involving her 9-year-old son. The woman was not injured in the accident, but her son was. Although doctors couldn't find an exact injury that was causing him pain, her son was still wearing a soft collar and was sore all over – especially his back. He was seeing his family doctor who had him on medication. When we asked her about her type of auto insurance, she said she had Limited Tort coverage. You could tell that she had talked to several attorneys about her situation by some of the language she used. Everyone she had called told her she would not be able to recover money for her son's injuries because of the Limited Tort option on her Pennsylvania auto insurance policy. Your decisions don't just affect you – they affect everyone listed on your policy as well.

I hope I've answered some questions you may have had about Full Tort and Limited Tort. It's a very important choice to make as you review your auto insurance policy. If you have Limited Tort on your policy now, I encourage you to call your insurance agent right away to change it to Full Tort. You can contact your agent at any time to update your policy.

If you have more questions, I encourage you to download our free e-book, For Pennsylvania Drivers: How to Choose Auto Insurance.

Don't miss my next blog on Protecting Yourself Against Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists.