Limited tort accident cases: A Guide

Limited Tort Versus Full Tort Car Insurance Coverages Examined

When a client comes into our office to discuss a car accident, one of the most important questions we will ask is, "What type of insurance coverage do you have?"

The typical response is "I don't know" or "I have full coverage" and similar answers. Understanding the difference between full and limited tort car accident cases is critical. Clients typically only learn the difference after being involved in a car accident — when it's too late.

The following guide to limited tort car accident cases from a Philadelphia car accident lawyer may be helpful to Pennsylvania residents who are reviewing their car insurance policies. Keep reading to learn more!

So what's the difference between limited tort vs. full tort auto insurance?

The major difference between full tort coverage vs. limited tort coverage is as follows. Limited tort coverage only allows a person injured in an auto accident to recover their out-of-pocket medical bills, wage loss, automobile repair costs, and other monetary losses.

In contrast, a person with full tort coverage, regardless of the extent of the injury, can bring a claim for pain and suffering, so long as the accident was not their fault. Thus, when a person chooses the limited tort coverage, they limit their right to pursue damages in a personal injury claim for pain and suffering and other similar damages, even if they were not a fault for the accident.

There are exceptions to the general rule that allows a person with limited tort coverage to bring a claim for pain and suffering where the injuries they sustained in the accident were "serious", but "serious" is subjective and left undefined. Other enumerated limited tort exceptions can be used to help you recover compensation for pain and suffering, but again, it is rare to fit your car accident into one of these exceptions.

The real problem becomes that insurance adjusters and insurance defense lawyers will argue that almost every injury is non-serious and would not qualify for the limited tort exception to limit the rights of personal injury victims to recover. While we all can gather that this is a disingenuous argument, it is the first line of defense and is made in almost every one of the limited tort car accident cases.

Our firm has successfully handled many limited tort car accident cases, fought the biggest insurance companies on the definition of "serious injury" and won, but nonetheless, it is always a battle.

Why do people choose limited tort?

So you may ask yourself, why would anyone choose limited tort? The simple reason – it's cheaper. The cost savings that insurance companies offer when electing limited tort are there to entice consumers who often believe that an accident won't happen with them behind the wheel.

Electing limited tort coverage will allow you to recover costs like medical bills related to the injury at the time of the accident, it's impossible to anticipate the long-term health effects of an accident on your body.

Often we see what initially looks like a mild back injury, turn into a herniation down the road. Having ongoing problems from an accident can affect your everyday life, from home to work, but for which you may not be able to recover if you had limited tort coverage. When you are shopping for a new auto insurance policy, or are looking over the terms of your current policy – understanding the difference between your rights with a limited tort versus full tort election is key.

What's the verdict?

To give you the best rights our team of Philadelphia car accident lawyers always recommend purchasing full tort coverage. We understand that sometimes the economics make that simply impossible, that is why it is important to shop around for auto insurance coverage.

Many times we have seen insurance companies offer full tort at a significant discount when doing a thorough search of all the auto insurance carriers such as State Farm, Geico, Progressive, All-State, NJM, among others. When you choose limited tort through companies such as Omni, Cure, The General, you may save money in the short run but limit your recovery rights if you are injured in an accident.

5 Keys to Winning Limited Tort Cases in Pennsylvania

Many drivers in Pennsylvania have limited tort policies, most often because it costs significantly less than having full tort. An auto insurer often will make it sound like you cannot recover from pain and suffering because you have chosen limited tort insurance in Pennsylvania – that is simply wrong.

You are entitled to recover from the pain and suffering of your injury, even with limited tort auto insurance. However, there are some hurdles that you have to overcome. Limited tort cases take more work to do to establish that your injury case can overcome the "limited tort threshold", this hard work is something that many Pennsylvania and Philadelphia car accident lawyers will not want to take on. Simply put limited tort car accident cases take significantly more effort and time than a full tort case.

This post examines five keys to winning limited tort cases in Pennsylvania, tips that can mean the difference in getting compensation for your injuries or going home with zero.

1 – Determining if Your Case Fits the Limited Tort Exemption

Sometimes finding a way around an obstacle is your best course of action – in the situation where you have limited tort insurance, if your situation fits one of the listed exceptions your problem goes away and you are now full tort. Limited tort auto insurance policies provide: if you are involved in an accident, you can seek recovery for all medical and other out-of-pocket expenses, but not for pain and suffering unless the injuries suffered fall within one of the exceptions to the limited tort status – which are as follows:

  • The driver who caused the accident was driving a vehicle registered in a different state (like New Jersey or any other State)
  • The driver who caused the accident is convicted of or enters a diversionary program such as ARD for the DUI
  • You were a pedestrian when injured in the accident
  • You were a passenger on a bus, taxi, truck, tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle such as Uber or Lyft when hurt
  • You were on a motorcycle when hurt
  • Your injuries have resulted in a "serious impairment to a significant bodily function"

2 – What "Serious Impairment to a Significant Bodily Function" Means for Limited Tort

A great question, the serious injury exception is, oftentimes, the most difficult to prove – it is left undefined by Pennsylvania Courts and is not automatic like the other limited tort exceptions. This question is very fact-specific, each person's body, mind, and situation is different.

Generally, we always recommend following your medical provider's recommended treatment plan and being diligent in doing so. That means if your chiropractor, primary care doctor, physical therapist, orthopedist, neurologist, pain management doctor, or any other medical provider related to your accident and injuries recommends you get the care you should do it.

If you are referred for diagnostic testing such as x-ray, MRI, EMG/NCV testing, vestibular testing, neuropsychiatric exam, or other testing, these are very important pieces for proving you suffered a serious injury and should be done. The insurance company will go over your treatment and care with a fine-tooth comb, any time you miss appointments, don't get recommended testing, or otherwise neglect your care they will latch right on to those instances to argue that you cannot be seriously hurt from this accident.

Remember, an insurance company is looking for any reason not to pay your claims – if you do not follow your treatment plan, you're handing one to them.

3 – Find a Limited Tort Car Accident Lawyer in Philadelphia Who Will File a Lawsuit

In most personal injury accident cases, once medical treatment is complete, the car accident lawyer in Philadelphia will put together what is called a 'demand packet or specials packet'. The demand packet will contain a description of the accident, all of the treatment records, and a demand for monetary compensation.

When the insurance company evaluates these demand packets, if they see that you had limited tort insurance coverage, they will deny a great majority of these claims simply based on the insurance adjuster's claim that the injured party did not breach the 'serious injury exception'.

We have seen our share of these denials from insurance companies because they hate paying for pain and suffering related to limited tort cases (regardless of the severity of the injury). Our team of Philadelphia lawyers takes a different tactic, we file suit on behalf of the majority of our limited tort clients – this puts a clock on the insurance company and they will make the claim a lot more seriously once a lawsuit is filed.

Having a lawyer that is unafraid of taking a limited tort accident case to trial is usually the difference in getting compensation for your injuries.

4 – Be on the Offensive or File the Law Suit as a "Major"

In Pennsylvania, there are two tracks to file a car accident lawsuit – arbitration track for cases valued under $50,000.00, or major jury (or non-jury) cases valued over $50,000.00. Our tip is that we want to be on the offensive in these types of situations, for that reason we file the majority of limited tort cases as 'Majors'.

This strategy, while more work-intensive for your personal injury lawyer, places a client and their case on the best footing to recover money for their injuries. Being on the offensive indicates to the auto insurance company that we feel strongly that we have a viable claim and will litigate to make certain that our client gets the best potential outcome.

Pursuing a limited tort accident case in this way can add value to your car accident case, the auto insurance company understands that a case filed as a major jury offers a lot more risk exposure for loss than an arbitration case – and will conduct themselves accordingly.

5 – Your Lawyer Has to Be Ready to Take Your Limited Tort Car Accident Case to Trial

Limited tort cases should not be taken by a lawyer if they are not ready to try the case. Settlement in limited tort cases happens, but a lot less likely than in full tort cases, many times settling only on the eave of trial. You should retain a trial lawyer who will prepare every limited tort case as a case that will be litigated to completion. This type of preparation will help a limited tort client to be placed in the best possible position to get compensated for their pain and suffering, economic injuries, either by way of settlement or verdict.

The contemplation of a 'runaway' verdict is about the only thing that insurance companies fear – they are multi-billion dollar conglomerates that are in business to make money, not pay limited tort car accident claims. A car accident lawyer in Philadelphia who is willing to take a limited tort case all the way through trial is paramount in getting you just compensation for your pain and suffering in these cases.

Keep in mind there are many Philadelphia personal injury and car accident lawyers who will not represent limited tort clients, or even worse, lawyers, who will represent limited tort clients but don't employ the correct strategies to make a recovery.

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Don't just trust TV or billboard ads when you ultimately decide which car accident lawyer to go with. Instead, read their google reviews from real clients. Knowing that you have a skilled Pennsylvania car accident lawyer is something that you should greatly consider. Contact us today for a free injury consultation with a Philadelphia car accident lawyer.


KaplanMarx is a Philadelphia based law firm focusing on personal injury and accident cases. We pride ourselves in our community roots and help injury victims and their families every day to recover.



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