What is the difference between full tort and limited tort insurance?
Every auto driver in Pennsylvania must have auto insurance. When you purchase auto insurance, you are always asked: "full tort or limited tort?". The difference is that limited tort insurance costs less (saves you about 15%). However, it also largely restricts injured victims from receiving any non-economic damages, except in very limited circumstances. The choice, while not overtly obvious, can be dangerous.
PA limited tort insurance: Less costly but dangerous.
If you select limited tort insurance, you will pay about fifteen-percent (15%) less in premiums. This generally amounts to less than a dollar, or even fifty cents a day ($15-$30/month).
However, in exchange for electing limited tort insurance, you agree to waive very important legal rights. Specifically, you agree that you cannot recover ANY money for ANY of the following non-economic damages.
These non-economic damages are crucial if you want to try to pursue or settle a lawsuit for a car accident in Pennsylvania.
It can be easy for people to think that they will never be in an accident, and if they are, then they won't sue. But even if you want to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company, having a limited tort policy can kill your case.
PA full tort insurance: You keep all of your legal rights.
Under full tort insurance, a person may recover all damages that can be proven in court. Under limited tort insurance, parties cannot sue for "non-economic loss" unless they suffer a "serious injury" or fit within one or more narrow legal exceptions.
Basically, there are two categories of harm for which you can seek monetary compensation under Pennsylvania law.
Economic loss: (actual out of pocket losses: lost wages, medical bills, and property damage).
Non-economic loss: (refers to physical injuries and even mental and physical discomfort, pain, and suffering).
What is a serious injury?
Limited tort insurance does have an exception for serious injury. Serious injury is defined as a personal injury resulting in:
serious impairment of body function, or
permanent serious disfigurement (broken bones, severe scarring).
Unless your accident involves these serious injuries, or perhaps is alcohol related, you are waiving your legal right to recover what the law typically allows.
The decision to save a few dollars per month now on limited tort insurance can affect you for life.
How limited tort insurance can really hurt you for life.
Suppose you choose limited tort coverage. In reality, why wouldn't you? It costs less and most insurance agents do not take the time to explain the importance of it to potential customers.
Let's say you are in an accident with your spouse and children. All of your injuries are to the soft-tissue of your body. As a result you miss 3 weeks of work, and have about $5,000 in medical bills. Before the accident, you had an extremely active life. Over the next 2 years, you suffer everyday stiffness, aches, and pains.If you chose limited tort insurance, you are LIMITED to recovering only the total of your medical bills and lost wages. That's it.
You will not be allowed to receive any compensation for your pain and suffering. Worse, you have zero negotiating power with the insurance company.
Money will never ease the physical pain you suffer from a car accident. However, fair compensation can make life at least economically bearable. We have witnessed too many injured people who have chosen limited tort and are suffering financially for their decision.
The decision to choose full tort insurance over limited tort insurance really is not a decision at all.
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