The majority of states in the U.S. are called “fault” states meaning that the driver who is at fault in an accident is legally responsible for paying the expenses that are incurred. This includes medical, personal injury, and property damage. However, Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that is called a “no-fault” state. This means that each party, regardless of who is at fault, collects compensation such as lost wages and medical bills from their own, respective insurers.
Pennsylvania auto insurance laws are more complex than most. While 12 states and Puerto Rico are no-fault states, even fewer are, like Pennsylvania, a “choice no-fault” state. This gives policyholders the option of choosing fault or no-fault rules. This choice must be made when the insurance is purchased.
Pennsylvania’s No-Fault Rules Explained
Under Pennsylvania law, drivers are given two options when purchasing auto insurance, limited tort and full tort. Limited tort means that the driver is choosing the no-fault system and in most cases, if they are in a motor vehicle accident, will not be able to file a lawsuit to get compensation. They will, instead, file the claim with their own insurance provider, even if they were not at fault. The claim will pay for medical bills. If the accident causes the insured to miss work, it will pay for lost wages as well. However, it does not allow the insured to seek compensation for emotional distress or pain and suffering even if the other driver was completely at fault except when the injuries meet certain criteria.
Many people who choose limited tort do so because it is less expensive and they will have lower premiums. However, most experts do not advise limited tort coverage because of the many limitations that prevent a driver from being fully compensated for loss stemming from a motor vehicle accident.
Full tort means that the insured has not chosen the no-fault system and does not have the numerous limitations. If they are involved in an accident, they can file a lawsuit against the insured to receive compensation and the at-fault driver pays the medical expenses and lost wages from the car accident.
The limited tort option usually has lower premiums while full tort option is usually more expensive.
Lawsuit Restrictions for Limited Tort Cases
The limited tort insurance option allows the insured to seek monetary compensation for certain injuries sustained in an auto accident. The insured may seek the recovery of any out of pocket expenses, such as medical, but seeking recovery of non monetary damages like pain and suffering are prohibited. However, there are exceptions that allow for lawsuits to collect compensation for non monetary damages when certain conditions are met. These conditions, known as thresholds, are based on how severe the injury is, such as if it is disabling or disfiguring. If the driver sustains this, what is known as a “serious injury,” then he or she may file a lawsuit to collect damages. The definition of “serious injury” is explained within the policy, along with other exceptions that may be in the policy that would allow the injured party to sue.
Choosing a Tort Option
When a Pennsylvania driver purchases auto insurance, he or she is asked at the time of purchase to select a tort option. If they do not make a selection, the insurance will automatically assign the full tort option.
When a driver renews his or her auto insurance, the insurance company will send a notice, asking them to make a selection. Under Pennsylvania law, this notice must be sent to the insured not less than 45 days before the first renewal of the policy. They will be given a paper and asked to place their signature under the type of insurance that they want.
If the insured fails to respond within 20 days to inform the insurance company of his or her choice, a second notice will be sent out. If the insured still has not responded with a tort option by ten days before the renewal date, the insurance company will automatically assign them the full tort option.
If you have been in a car accident, navigating Pennsylvania’s complex auto insurance laws can be very frustrating. Let one of the experienced, competent attorneys at The Slocum Firm sort it all out for you. We will review your policy and determine what right you have in the case. Call today to get started and get the compensation that you deserve. We’re on your side.