What is Limited Tort Automobile Insurance?

When you purchase automobile insurance in Pennsylvania, you can choose either the full tort option or the limited tort option. Most people do not understand how this choice impacts their ability to recover if injured in an automobile accident.

If you select the limited tort option, you will pay less for your car insurance. However, if you are injured in a car accident, your right to recover from the other driver is significantly limited. Absent special exceptions, a limited tort victim cannot recover for “non-economic detriment” caused by the accident. In other words, they cannot recover for pain and suffering caused by the accident. Most limited tort victims can only recover for lost wages and unpaid medical bills. Because of this limitation, many attorneys will not take limited tort cases.

There are some situations in which a limited tort victim can recover for pain and suffering. These include:

  • when the victim suffers “serious injury;”
  • when the person who is at fault is convicted or accepts ARD for driving under the influence;
  • when the person who is at fault is operating a motor vehicle that is registered in another state;
  • when the person who is at fault intends to injure himself or another person;
  • when the person who is at fault “has not maintained financial responsibility” as required by law; and
  • when the victim is injured while occupying a vehicle other than a “private passenger motor vehicle,” including a motorcycle, taxi, or sometimes an employer’s vehicle.

It is important to know that an injury often must be very serious before a court will find that it is a “serious injury” that entitles a victim to recovery for pain and suffering. For this reason, many limited tort victims are surprised to find that, despite their severe pain, they cannot recover for pain and suffering.