After being injured in a car accident, navigating the details of an insurance claim can be the most frustrating part of recovery. This becomes especially true for those who find themselves confused by Pennsylvania’s car accident laws. Pennsylvania is one of a dozen states that has no-fault laws for insurance holders. Understanding the state’s laws regarding personal injury and car insurance will ensure that you have an easier time handling your claim and will help you choose a better policy in the future.
What No-Fault Policies Accomplish
In states with no-fault laws, all drivers are required to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. When people get injured a car accident, their medical costs are paid by their own insurer, regardless of fault...but what happens when someone is grievously injured and someone else is at fault? In Pennsylvania, most people still have limits on their ability to sue someone for anything beyond medical costs. It comes down to what type of car insurance policy you bought: is it a "limited tort" or "full tort coverage" policy?
While a limited tort policy disqualifies claimants from suing beyond a certain award cap, a "full tort" policy allows claimants to opt-out of the no-fault system. In short, people with full tort coverage retain their right to sue a negligent driver for pain and suffering. Full tort policies are more expensive but preserve an individual's right to a full jury verdict with no arbitrary cap.
How do you know which one you have? If you're like most people and chose the least expensive coverage available, you almost certainly have limited tort coverage. However, check with your insurer today to be certain.
Understanding Full Tort & Limited Tort
Tort is the legal term for when someone is injured and wants to sue the person responsible. When an individual has limited tort coverage, they must seek recovery for any medical bills and losses caused by a car accident with their own car insurance provider. This coverage does not allow claimants to seek damages for pain and suffering caused by an accident. However, it is possible to pursue claims of pain and suffering if injuries are severe enough. Injuries that are considered severe in limited tort claims are usually those that cause a person to lose some sort of physical or cognitive function.
Full tort coverage allows Pennsylvanians to bypass the state’s no-fault laws. With full tort insurance, drivers may pursue personal damages from a defendant, even if their losses are lower than the requirements placed on limited tort policies.
Pennsylvania Insurance Requirements for All Drivers
Pennsylvania has insurance requirements for all drivers, regardless of their policy’s status as full tort or limited tort. These limits seek to ensure that all drivers have an adequate amount of coverage when it is needed.
These requirements include the following details:
- $15,000 dollars of bodily injury liability coverage per person and $30,000 of total coverage
- $5,000 dollars liability coverage for property damage
- $5,000 in first party medical benefits coverage. This coverage covers the medical costs of the person who holds the policy.
Is Compensation for Pain & Suffering Possible in a No-Fault Insurance System?
Serious car accidents leave mental and emotional scars that can last for a lifetime. In states with fault insurance systems, survivors of car accidents can pursue the party that caused their accident for something known as non-economic damages. This includes compensation for traumatic damages that are difficult to place a monetary value on. Yet, aspects of the no-fault system can make securing this compensation difficult.
As mentioned above, it’s possible for some parties to opt-out of the state’s no-fault insurance requirement. A person can purchase a more expensive type of car insurance that allows them more freedom from the state’s no-fault laws. However, these policies are more expensive and aren’t a reasonable option for everyone.
When Can Someone with Limited Tort Coverage Seek Damages?
There are times when a person can pursue an at-fault party for damages that extend beyond their insurance company or for those that are considered non-economic damages. When an accident causes serious injuries to someone, it’s likely that they can pursue the other party for compensation because of negligence.
The state determines serious injuries based on:
- How much they’ve impaired a person
- The length of time a person will be or has been impaired
- How much treatment a person required for their injuries
- Other unique factors that contribute to the seriousness of an injury.
These factors do allow for non-economic damages to be sought despite no-fault laws. Courts have deemed that, though pain and suffering is a subjective experience, it is something that is serious enough to deserve compensation for—even if a person hasn’t opted out of the state’s no-fault system.
For example, if a person’s suffering prevented them from living their life as they did before an accident, this could be considered a lasting impairment. The state’s laws mean that a person needs to be able to have traceable pain that’s linked to obvious injuries or a serious accident. Ultimately, it’s important to speak with an experienced law firm if you need help after a serious accident. While nothing guarantees an outcome for your case, having help from people who are familiar with the state’s car accident process is crucial.
Speak with HHR About Your No-Fault Questions
It is not unusual to be confused by the Pennsylvania no-fault laws. Often, those who are injured in a car accident aren't aware of how much they're entitled to. At their core, insurance companies are businesses. To preserve profits, they will pay out as little as possible. If you accept the first settlement you're offered, you will no longer be able to hold those at fault accountable.
If you are unsure about your claim, speak to the Pennsylvania car accident attorneys at Handler, Henning, & Rosenberg today. For nearly a century, we have helped Pennsylvanians recover the compensation they deserve after suffering an injury. We have dedicated our firm to fighting for the well-being of our clients. This has resulted in verdicts and settlements won by HHR totaling in the tens of millions of dollars.
You don’t have to feel defeated by Pennsylvania’s no-fault laws. Contact HHR today for a free consultation to find out all your options. (888) 498-3023