Full tort and limited tort automobile insurance
Full tort and limited tort automobile insurance options were instituted by the state of Pennsylvania in an attempt to decrease the number of pain and suffering lawsuits in Pennsylvania courts. Concerned about the high rates of automobile insurance, Pennsylvania enacted mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage in the attempt to reduce the number of lawsuits resulting from automobile accidents. PIP insurance covers the medical bills of drivers involved in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. The idea behind the creation of PIP insurance was that it would reduce the number of ‘pain and suffering’ or ‘loss’ lawsuits, thereby reducing insurance company payouts and ultimately reducing insurance premiums.
Individuals who now purchase insurance in Pennsylvania are classified as either “limited tort” or “full tort.” Tort is a legal term meaning “civil wrongdoing – in civil law, a wrongful act for which damages can be sought by the injured party.”
In Pennsylvania, insurance companies offer full tort coverage which gives covered individuals the ability to sue in court for all damages, and limited tort coverage which “limits” the ability to sue for pain and suffering. Both full tort and limited tort coverage only apply in situations where the driver or passengers have been injured in an accident that is not the driver's fault. The victim then has the option of bringing charges against the at-fault driver to sue in court for unpaid medical bills, property damage, loss of income, pain, and suffering.
Limited tort coverage is less expensive, so it is appealing to consumers as a way to save on their insurance premiums. This option will save approximately 15% in premiums annually. However, by choosing limited tort, consumers give up the ability to sue for “pain and suffering” in the event they are seriously injured in an automobile accident. With limited tort you can sometimes recover limited amounts in a lawsuit for injuries suffered, but only if they are deemed “serious.” The state of Pennsylvania defines "serious" injury as that resulting in death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement. Regardless of how much pain you have suffered, injuries that ultimately heal are not usually deemed “serious” in a court of law. Neck and back strains and sprains such as whiplash, broken bones and head injuries are often not severe enough to be considered “serious” in a limited tort court case.
By choosing the full tort option, victims are retaining their full rights to bring a claim (lawsuit) in the event of accident or injury. The premium for full tort coverage is usually 12%-20% higher, but purchasing full tort coverage enables the insured to retain their rights to legal recourse in the event they are injured in an automobile accident.