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Full Tort vs. Limited Tort Law: What Is the Difference? And How Does It Affect You?

When it comes to personal injury law, tort law is one of the most common you will encounter in your lifetime because it is the primary focus of car insurance and personal injury claims. In Pennsylvania, drivers have the option to choose between two types of tort insurance: limited tort and full tort. Which insurance you choose influences your car accident insurance claim, so it is important to understand the difference between the two and how they may change what happens if you are involved in a car accident. At May Herr & Grosh, we have the experience you need to navigate tort law and are prepared to help you understand it.

What is Tort?

A tort is a civil wrong that causes harm or loss to another individual. Aside from a breach of contract law, it is a wrongful act that results in injury to another person, property, reputation, or the like, and the injured party may seek relief in the form of damages or an injunction. The term “tort” originates from the Latin word “tortum,” meaning “something twisted, wrung, or crooked.”

Torts can be intentional, accidental, or due to negligence. Negligent torts, for instance, occur when harm is done to people through the failure of another to exercise a reasonable standard of care. Examples of common torts include assault, battery, damage to personal property, conversion of personal property, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

There are three main types of torts:

  1. Intentional torts
  2. Negligence
  3. Strict liability

What Is the Difference Between Full Tort and Limited Tort in Pennsylvania?

Limited tort is a form of insurance that limits your right and the rights of household members to seek financial compensation for injuries caused by other drivers. This limitation means you can sue for monetary damages such as medical bills, lost wages, or other out-of-pocket expenses. However, you cannot sue for long-term issues or pain and suffering unless you are seriously injured. A severe injury to a plaintiff is defined by law as a personal injury resulting in death, permanent and severe disfigurement, or serious impairment.

On the other hand, full tort allows you to retain unrestricted rights to sue the negligent party in a car accident, whether your injury is considered “serious” or not under criminal law. Full tort insurance is more expensive than limited tort, but you maintain the ability to sue for pain and suffering.

It is important to note that a limited tort option is always less expensive than the full one, saving an average of 10 to 15% on premiums. However, you will be left with few other options should you be injured in a car accident if you have limited tort coverage. Therefore, choosing between full and limited tort is a decision that should be made carefully, considering the financial implications and the potential need for comprehensive coverage in the event of an accident.

Why Does the Amount of Tort Coverage Matter?

Pennsylvania operates under a no-fault system, one of only 12 states that do so. This classification means that if you are injured in a car accident, regardless of who is responsible, your own insurance company will cover your medical bills up to your coverage limits. Pennsylvania’s minimum coverage for first-party medical benefits is $5,000, but purchasing more is possible.

Under this system, if you are at fault in an accident or sustain injuries from an accident caused by another driver, you or your health insurer will bear the cost if your medical bills exceed your policy limits. If you are not at fault, you can file a claim against the negligent driver’s auto insurance company for your out-of-pocket medical expenses and, under certain circumstances, amounts paid by your health insurer. However, until your personal injury claim is settled, you and your health insurer are responsible for your accident-related medical expenses.

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Are There Any Exceptions to This?

Yes, there are some exceptions. Under certain circumstances, even if you have chosen “limited tort” insurance, you can still access the benefits of “full tort.” For instance, if the personal injuries sustained in a traffic accident are severe enough, you may be able to claim compensation for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses, despite your “limited tort” status. Injuries that qualify as “serious” often involve significant impairment of bodily function or serious and permanent disfigurement.

In many cases, undergoing surgery due to injuries from the accident can be sufficient to bypass the “limited tort” restriction under Pennsylvania law. Other exceptions to the “limited tort” rule could occur in personal injury cases if the driver who caused the accident were under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if their vehicle were registered in a state other than Pennsylvania.

If you find yourself in any of these situations, speaking with a seasoned and experienced personal injury lawyer or attorney at the earliest opportunity can be helpful in establishing your case.

How Can Tort Affect You After a Car Accident?

Tort can significantly impact you after a car accident, primarily as a negligence tort. When driving a vehicle, operating it safely and responsibly is an inherent duty. If someone fails in that duty, which could include behaviors like distracted driving or driving under the influence, and it results in wrongful death or an accident, they have been negligent.

Suppose you have been involved in a car accident and believe it was due to the negligence of another party. In that case, speaking with an injury lawyer or a legal professional is essential to understand your rights and potential remedies under tort law.

Get the Help You Need After a Car Accident with the Tort Law Experts

Suppose you have been involved in a car accident. In that case, understanding your rights under tort law and monetary compensation can be crucial, and it is never too early to talk to a lawyer about your circumstances. We understand that dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming. That is why we are committed to helping you navigate these difficult times. Our experienced legal professionals can help you understand your options, guide you through the legal process, and work tirelessly to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Do not navigate this complex legal landscape alone. Reach out to our tort law experts today and let us help you get back on your feet after your car accident.


This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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