Full Tort or Limited Tort: What in the world and why?
On behalf of all Pennsylvanians,
I sincerely apologize for this goofy law.
A while back, law suits from car accidents resulting in pain and suffering were clogging up the courts. To help stifle these suits, the legislature introduced the Tort Option in PA auto insurance policies. So now, when you purchase your auto policy you have to choose whether you will ever want to sue for pain and suffering or not. If you make the wrong choice when you buy, well… too bad.
Let’s see if we can help you make sense of this mess.
If you select full tort on your auto policy, then you are not limited in your rights to sue for all damages in the event of an injury. This includes damages for pain and suffering.
Full tort is easy enough to understand. Basically you are keeping all of your rights. So you get to decide if you should be able to sue for damages beyond just medical bills and lost wages.
Limited tort on the other hand, is more complicated. If you select limited tort, you have restricted your rights to collect from a third party or your insurance company for ‘non-monetary damages’.
In other words cannot sue for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or other damages that are not measurable financial losses.
Tis but a scratch
There are a few scenarios where the tort option doesn’t apply. Notably, commercial policies and for ‘serious injuries’.
But who gets to say what is a serious injury?
As defined by the statute, a serious injury results in “death, significant deformity or impairment of body function”. If you’re thinking that’s a little unclear, then I totally agree with you. What you or I may consider a serious injury, your insurance company may consider minor. Even if it’s permanent.
Full Tort or Limited Tort: So which option should I select?
There is only one reason to select the limited tort option. You get a reduction in premium which can be significant (generally about 15%). Beyond that, you are either betting that you’ll never need the insurance or conceding the fact that you will not recover for pain and suffering.
If your budget for auto insurance allows, we always recommend selecting full tort. Most people don’t consider themselves ‘the suing type’. However, once someone is injured and a claim for pain and suffering is denied by the insurance carrier, people have a very different point of view. By then it is too late and we are forced to live with the decision that we made up front.
Now as with most insurance, you can change your tort selection at any time (before the accident!!). If you’ve selected limited tort, maybe it’s time to consider rethinking that choice. Talk to your agent or broker to decide what is right for you and for your family. If you’re looking for an agent to help you out we’d love to hear from you!