What Types of Car Accident Injury Does Pennsylvania Law Consider Serious?

Insights from an Allegheny County Car Accident Lawyer

In 2021, fatal motor vehicle accidents killed more than 1,100 people across Pennsylvania, placing PA among the ten states with the highest number of car crash fatalities. In addition to these tragic wrongful death cases, many more state residents sustained serious and often life-altering injuries.

What counts as a serious injury under Pennsylvania law, and why is it meaningful in personal injury cases? Thomas Berret, a car accident lawyer in Allegheny County, provides his expertise to help answer this question.

Full Tort vs. Limited Tort Insurance Coverage

In Pennsylvania, every owner of a car is required to insure the car. A Pennsylvania car owner must have $15,000.00 in liability insurance to cover anyone he or she might injure, the car owner must have at least $5,000.00 to cover the other person’s property damage, and the car owner must have at least $5,000.00 in medical benefits coverage to pay for bills caused by the accident.  These above insurance limits are the bare minimum.  A car owner has the option and ability to greatly increase all of these coverages-and purchase other types of insurance as well (Underinsured Motorist Coverage, rental coverage, funeral expense, etc.), but the limits set forth above are the minimum amounts that must be purchased.

Many people who call me about their car accidents confuse the idea of full coverage with the full tort option.  These are entirely separate concepts that have great implications for every case where someone is injured in a Pennsylvania motor vehicle crash.

When you purchase automobile insurance in Pennsylvania, you are required to select either the “Full Tort” or “Limited Tort” option. Again, this has nothing to do with the dollar amount of coverage you buy, or the type of additional optional coverages you buy. 

One concept that is sometimes difficult to convey to clients is that his or her own election of the Full Tort or Limited Tort option will govern the case, even if the other person is at fault.

At our law firm, we believe that every person who insures a car in Pennsylvania should elect the Full Tort option.  The reasons for this, as well as the differences between the Full and Limited Tort option, are set forth below.

If you pick the Full Tort option, you will generally pay more for your insurance coverage than if you had selected the Limited Tort option.  We believe that the increased cost is well worth the benefit of having Full Tort coverage.

If you elect the Full Tort option, you will have the right to make a financial recovery for what the law calls “non-economic damages”, or what most people would call “pain and suffering” or “bodily injury”. The dollar amount of every person’s injury claim is specific to that person, but the important thing about the Full Tort option is that it lets you make a claim for pain and suffering, even if you have minor or transient injuries. If you elect the Full Tort option, you generally won’t have to worry about an insurance company denying your claim because you “didn’t suffer a serious injury”.  

In contrast, if you elect the Limited Tort option, your right to make a monetary recovery for “non-economic damages” (pain and suffering/bodily injury) is, like the option is titled, limited.  Unless you fall into one of several exceptions, you cannot make a recovery for pain and suffering if you are covered by the limited tort option.  

There are a fair amount of situations where a person covered by the Limited Tort option can make a recovery for pain and suffering, and if you want to learn more about this, click here In this post, we are discussing only the “serious injury exception”. 

What Is a Serious Injury, According to PA Law?

One of the exceptions to the Limited Tort option is the “serious injury” exception. This means that, if you are covered by the Limited Tort option, but have a serious injury, you can make a monetary recovery.  The law defines a serious injury as “A personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.”  These can include injuries such as:

If you have suffered a serious injury, even if you are covered by the Limited Tort option, you can make a claim for pain and suffering. It is important to note that there is no simple formula or check box that decides if you have a serious injury, and every case is evaluated on its own. Our law firm has recovered significant money for clients with Limited Tort who were denied compensation by an insurance company because the insurance adjuster didn’t think the injury was “serious” enough.  If you have questions about whether you have sustained a serious injury, you should contact an attorney who regularly handles motor vehicle cases.

What You Should Do After an Accident

In the minutes following an accident, you may be overwhelmed, confused, or in pain. Pursuing compensation may not be your first thought. But we think people involved in accidents, should consider doing the following:

If the police are on the scene, try to get the police officer’s information and report number.  You should also inform your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible, but be careful about what you say. A casual statement like “I don’t think I’m seriously injured” could act against you when you file a claim.

Why You Need an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

As a car accident victim, you need a knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated legal team on your side. Choosing the right lawyer can significantly raise your chances of receiving a fair settlement.

Here is why car accident victims and their families in Allegheny County choose our team at Hal Waldman and Associates to represent them.

Most importantly, we handle all our cases on a contingency basis. That means that you will pay us nothing unless and until we win. We will meet you for a free case assessment and help you understand your legal options. Then, if we agree to take your case, we will work hard to win your case for you.

Hal Waldman and Associates: Car Accident Law Firm in Allegheny County, PA

Have you or a loved one been injured in a car crash? Are you dealing with the physical, mental, and financial aftermath of a serious accident? At Hal Waldman and Associates, award-winning personal injury lawyers, we are here to offer competent legal help to car accident victims and their families.

Schedule your free consultation with our team at Hal Waldman and Associates at 412-850-3064. We serve Pittsburgh and all of Allegheny County, PA.