I have Limited Tort, Can I Make a Claim for Pain and Suffering?
Perhaps the most critical question that we ask callers to our firm is this- “Do you have Full or Limited Tort?” The answer to that question can mean the difference between a relatively smooth process that leads to a settlement, or a long, drawn out court fight.
When a person buys Pennsylvania car insurance, they are required to choose between the Full Tort and Limited Tort option. The Limited Tort option is cheaper, and so many people choose that option. What they don’t know is that with the Limited Tort option, your rights are also “limited”. When I explain what having the Limited Tort option means to a client, they almost always say that if they had known that, they would have picked the Full Tort option. What’s sad is that insurance agents often don’t explain the difference, and the law says that you can’t hold the agent responsible for not explaining the difference. In this blog post, I will explain the difference.
Whether you choose Full or Limited Tort, that option applies to every relative of yours that lives with you. The option you choose also dictates and controls the rights that you have even if the other driver was at fault.
The Difference Between Full Tort and Limited Tort
The Full Tort option is easy. You pay more money, but you can always make a claim for pain and suffering (what the law calls “non-economic damages”). If you are injured in a car accident, and you go to the emergency room with a sore neck, you can make a claim. It may not be a large claim, but you are entitled to recover money. Of course, people who have suffered serious or catastrophic injuries are also able to make financial recoveries, they just receive more money.
The Limited Tort option is less simple. When you pick the Limited Tort option, you pay less money but you have less rights. You do not have the right to make a claim for pain and suffering (non-economic damages), unless you fit within an exception. Thankfully, there are several situations where people who picked the Limited Tort option can make a financial recovery for pain and suffering.
First, people who are injured while pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicyclists- or persons who are occupying a non-private passenger motor vehicle, such as a rental car or bus, are always entitled to make claims for pain and suffering even if they have selected the Limited Tort option on their auto policy. I don’t consider these exceptions, because people who fall into the categories in this paragraph were never “covered” by the Limited Tort option in the first place.
If you are occupying a private passenger motor vehicle, there are a number of exceptions that will let you make a financial recovery for pain and suffering. I call this first group the “easy exceptions”. These are exceptions which automatically allow you to make a claim for pain and suffering. They include:
- Persons who are injured by a drunk driver who is convicted or enters an ARD program
- Persons who are injured by someone operating an out-of-state vehicle
- Persons who are injured by someone without insurance
- Persons who are injured by a wrongdoer who intended to cause injuries
If one of the above exceptions applies, then you are by law entitled to make a claim for pain and suffering against the wrongdoer and/or his insurer. That’s why I consider these “easy” exceptions. If you fit within one of the above, you can make a financial recovery for pain and suffering.
The last exception-which is not always automatic is the “serious injury” exception. Persons covered by the Limited Tort option who suffer death, serious impairment of a bodily function, or serious permanent disfigurement can make a claim. Obviously, for some people this exception is automatic. If someone dies as the result of a collision, there is no debate. If someone calls me and tells me that they have suffered a broken femur that required surgery I know at once that the person will have a right to make a recovery. The analysis becomes a bit more fuzzy when people have injuries that are more subjective in nature. A fracture will show up on an x-ray. A herniated disc will show up on an MRI. Soft-tissue type injuries can’t be seen. Is a person with Limited Tort who has soft-tissue injuries entitled to make a recovery for pain and suffering? Frankly, it depends on the nature of the crash, the length of your medical treatment, and the effects of the collision on your life. You can click here to read about serious injuries, and always feel free to contact our team at Hal Waldman and Associates at 412-850-3064 to see if you have a serious injury.
How Uninsured and Underinsured Drivers Can Affect Your Pain and Suffering Claim
One last important issue to mention is the effect of the Full Tort or Limited Tort option on your Uninsured (UM) or Underinsured (UIM) claim. For more about UM or UIM claims. Generally UM or UIM claims are made when you have purchased the optional coverage and the wrongdoer is either uninsured or underinsured, respectively. If you have elected the Limited Tort option, your election will apply to your UM or UIM claim, but the law is much more strict. You may recall that above I mentioned “easy” exceptions-the drunk driver, out of state driver, uninsured driver, or driver who intended to cause you harm.
Those exceptions apply only in “third party cases”, meaning you versus the wrongdoer. If you are making a claim against your Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist carrier, those “easy” exceptions do not apply. If you have Limited Tort and you are making a claim against your Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist carrier, you will only be able to make a claim for pain and suffering if you have suffered a serious injury as set forth above and here.
Although what I have written above is an accurate statement of the law, I have had several cases where my client’s Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist policy provides rights to my clients that are greater than the law allows. In these cases, I have been able to recover money for Limited Tort clients who do not have serious injuries.
Because there are so many exceptions to the rules, as well as pitfalls and traps for the average person (and sometimes average lawyer), it is best that you always contact a skilled personal injury attorney when you have been injured in a car accident.
You should always feel free to contact our team at Hal Waldman and Associates at 412-850-3064 to get a detailed analysis of your case and your rights.