Tort Options for PA Car Insurance - Full vs Limited

| March 06, 2023

Let's look at a basic question...Why do we have a choice between Full Tort and Limited Tort? In 1990 Pennsylvania wanted to reduce the number of lawsuits that were backing up in the system. The idea was to give auto insurance customers an incentive to give up their rights to collect for pain and suffering. Thereby, reducing the number of claims that were proceeding to the courts. The incentive to give up your rights is a discount on your insurance premium. The default option for all policies is Full Tort. But you are allowed to elect Limited Tort and give up certain rights in exchange for a reduction on your premium.

So what is your tort option and why does it matter? Choosing Limited Tort allows you to reduce your insurance premium by waiving your right to recover certain damages if you are injured in an accident. Full Tort allows you to retain your full rights to recover from a negligent party.

So what do we mean by damages? Let's say you are injured in a car accident because of the negligence of another party. You should have the right to be compensated for your loss. Damages can include such things as pain, suffering, inconvenience, lost wages, and unreimbursed medical expenses.

Damages from injuries can be classified as economic or non-economic. Economic losses generally include things you would be able to provide verifiable documentation to support. For example, lost wages, deductibles for medical treatment, costs to commute to doctor appointments, or receipts for services that you are unable to complete due to your injuries. Perhaps you are not able to go on vacation because of your injuries, the cost of the airfare and hotel could be considered an economic loss. Maybe you always cut your grass and due to your broken leg, you have to hire someone to cut your lawn, that would be an economic loss. Non-ecomomic losses would include items that are more subjective, such as pain, suffering and inconvenience.

According to Act 6 of Title 75 Section 1705 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Limited Tort allows you to recover for "...all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses, but not for pain and suffering or other nonmonetary damages..." However, there are some exceptions that would permit someone who has chosed the Limited Tort option to recover for non-economic loss. To summarize, you may be eligible for Full Tort benefits if your injuries are determined to be serious, or you're injured by a driver convicted of DUI, or the other vehicle is registered out of state, or you occupy a commercial vehicle. Refer to your insurance policy and to the Act for a complete explanation of the exceptions.

So what choice should you make? Your own situation may warrant one selection over the other. If the difference in premium between Limited Tort and Full Tort affects whether you can afford the insurance or not, then your decision will be easy. I began my career in the insurance industry handling claims. Whenever I went to settle a liability claim, no one ever complained about having Full Tort. I had many people who were upset to find out that they had given up their rights with Limited Tort. Those people did not care about their savings over the years, the only thing that concerned them at the time of a claim was that they were not able to be compensated.

Insurance is an expense that everyone who owns a car has to deal with. Having the right insurance is expensive. Having the wrong insurance can be really expensive. What coverage do you want when something bad happens to you? Review your coverages today and take the time to speak with an insurance professional to find out what is right for you.

DISCLAIMER The information provided is not legal or professional advice. Questions regarding your coverage should be discussed with your insurance professional. Your insurance policy will detail the coverage provided by your insurance carrier. Insurance policies can differ among carriers and states.