Full Tort vs Limited Tort – Knowing the Difference

September 26th, 2023

photo of two cars that got into an accident

Full tort provides unrestricted rights to make a claim or sue for various damages after a car accident, including pain and suffering. In contrast, limited tort restricts the ability to recover or sue for non-economic damages like pain and suffering unless specific criteria are met. Full tort typically lends to higher premiums but potentially larger payouts, whereas limited tort comes with lower premiums but limits the scope of legal action and potential payouts. It is critical to recognize that in many cases, pain and suffering is the biggest part of your personal injury settlement.

Understanding Full and Limited Tort Insurance

After you’ve been injured in a car crash, you may have significant losses: inability to work, persistent pain and physical limitations, and substantial financial effects. However, many people are surprised they may not be able to receive any compensation for all the physical effects of their injuries.

In Pennsylvania and many other states, your ability to file a lawsuit seeking monetary damages for your pain and suffering often depends on whether you’ve chosen full or limited tort on your auto insurance policy. If you want to protect your rights, you must learn the difference between the two and pick the full tort option on your policy.

What’s the difference between full tort and limited tort in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, insurance companies created limited tort coverage to limit whether car accident victims can recover or sue for pain and suffering. Though limited tort policies cost less, you give up many critical legal rights when you select them. Those losses can be tens of thousands of dollars, far outweighing the hundreds of dollars you may save on your insurance premium.

Selecting the “full tort” option is vitally important to protect your rights when you’re injured. Take a look at how the two coverage options compare.

Full Tort
– Injured person/Claimant must not be at fault.

– Can recover losses for out-of-pocket medical expenses, wage losses, and property damage.

– Can always recover losses for non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life’s pleasures.

– No need to prove a “serious injury” to be eligible to recover non-economic damages.

Limited Tort
– Injured person/claimant must not be at fault.

– Can recover losses for out-of-pocket medical expenses, wage losses, and property damage.

– Must prove “serious injury” or other exception to limited tort to recover non-economic losses. This is very hard to do in many cases and can either reduce a settlement or prevent any financial recovery even if you are injured.

– Can recover non-economic damages if you prove a “serious injury.”

There are a few exceptions to limited tort coverage. If a drunk driver injures you, you are a passenger in a commercial vehicle, or a person operating a vehicle registered out of state injures you, you retain your full legal rights against that person. Otherwise, a person with limited tort must prove a “serious injury” to recover for their non-economic losses, which can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. However, the DUI, commercial vehicle, and out-of-state vehicle exceptions do not carry over when making a claim against your own insurance company for Uninsured (UM) or Underinsured (UIM) benefits. As a result, it is still critical to carry full tort insurance.

If you’re a Pennsylvania driver who gets in an accident in the state, whichever coverage you have — full or limited tort — will be in effect. However, if Pennsylvania drivers are involved in an out-of-state accident, you may be subject to that state’s policies. These policies could potentially eliminate your full tort option, leaving Pennsylvania drivers with a limited tort option.

Can you sue in Pennsylvania with limited tort?

In Pennsylvania, if you have limited tort auto insurance, you can usually only recover for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering if your injuries are considered “serious” and involve severe impairment or significant disfigurement. Other conditions that would allow a Pennsylvania driver to sue under limited tort are if the at-fault driver is convicted of a DUI or if the at-fault driver’s vehicle is registered in another state that doesn’t have a limited tort option or similar restriction.

How to Choose Between Full and Limited Tort

When it comes time to review or choose a new auto insurance policy, it’s best to select full tort coverage. Though you may be able to save money off your premium with limited tort, you can wind up with much more significant losses — which you aren’t able to recover any money for — if you can’t overcome the difficult “serious injury” threshold. And remember that you aren’t saving money with limited tort insurance, you are giving up your legal rights and getting less insurance. Please choose wisely.

Why is full tort more expensive?

Full tort tends to be more expensive than limited tort because it allows policyholders to sue at-fault drivers for a broader range of damages, including pain and suffering, which can result in bigger payouts if they win their legal claims. These larger potential payouts mean that insurance companies face a greater financial risk, so they charge higher premiums to compensate for this risk. However, the benefits of recovering for all of your pain and suffering more than pays for itself when you make a personal injury claim.

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Flager & Associates today by calling (215) 953-5200. We provide free case evaluations.

Adam Flager, Esq.Written by Adam D. Flager, Esq., Associate at Flager & Associates, PC

With his practice focused on litigation, Adam primarily represents clients in personal injury cases, such as motor vehicle, slip and fall, defective products, and construction and worksite accidents. He is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the State of New Jersey, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the District of New Jersey, and the United States Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit. Adam received his J.D. from Widener University School of Law in 2009, where he graduated with pro-Bono Distinction.

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