Full Tort vs. Limited Tort Insurance

Insurance companies give every driver in Pennsylvania two options when purchasing an auto insurance policy: full tort or limited tort. Many drivers have no concrete understanding of what each option entails or how great the benefits of a full tort are. They often do not know what they are missing with the limited tort option until after they have had an accident – and at that point, it will be late to change their mind.

It is important to take a few moments and educate yourself before disaster strikes. This way, you can make an informed decision that best protects you and your family. Below is a brief overview of full and limited tort options in Pennsylvania. For more detailed information or for accident liability questions, call Cordisco & Saile LLC at 215-791-8911 to request a free consultation.

What makes Pennsylvania’s auto insurance system unique?

Each state in the nation gets to devise many of its own rules and regulations for auto insurance claims and policies. Some states opt to give all drivers the right to sue a negligent party or file a claim with at-fault party’s insurance company after an accident as means to recover damages. These states are “fault” car insurance states. Other states, on the other hand, embrace “no-fault” car insurance rules, which simply mean that after an accident, everyone files a claim with their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault.

Pennsylvania is unique in that in implements a blend of both types of systems. It is a “choice no-fault” auto insurance state. Under the choice no-fault system, drivers in PA get to choose whether or not they want to purchase a fault policy (full tort) or a no-fault policy (limited tort). The former option provides much better protection than the latter. It essentially allows drivers to preserve their right to sue and seek full recovery for damages from an at-fault party.

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What is the difference between full tort and limited tort insurance?

Many victims sustain a wide variety of harms in an accident, including both monetary losses such as medical bills and lost income, and non-monetary losses such as pain and suffering. The type of insurance coverage you have, what your policy entails, and which party the insurance companies determine to be at fault are some of the factors that determine how much and from whom you can recover.

In a nutshell, the difference between a full tort and a limited tort insurance is what types of damages you can recover in an accident.

  • Full Tort – With a full tort option, you will have the right to pursue compensation for the full extent of your losses from an at-fault party. This means that so long as the other party is at fault, you can file a claim or lawsuit to recover both your monetary and non-monetary damages. So, not only can your settlement compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses, but also for mental anguish, accident-related emotional trauma, lost enjoyment in life, and pain and suffering.
  • Limited Tort – With a limited tort, your hands are somewhat tied; you are limited in the types of damages you can recover. You can recover monetary losses, but you are – for the most part – ineligible from recovering non-monetary damages. The only exception to this rule is when suffer a “serious” injury, in which case, you retain the right to sue for the full extent of your damages. However, keep in mind that if you have a limited tort policy and are ever seriously hurt, it will be a major feat to actually convince the insurance that your injury should be labeled “serious” in terms of the law. Many insurers are reluctant to approve claims on limited tort policies and will try to argue that your injuries are not severe enough to qualify you for full recovery.

Note: Regardless of whether you have a full or limited tort policy, if you are more than 50 percent at fault for the accident, you will need to turn to your own policy to recover damages. Your insurance agent or attorney can explain this in more detail.

What are the pros and cons of each type of insurance?

Without a doubt, there is only one single benefit of opting for a limited tort policy: cheaper premiums. Limited tort policies cost roughly $100 less per year, or about a quarter a day. Because insurance companies know that they have to pay victims with limited tort policies far less than those with full tort policies, they can afford to reduce their premiums a little bit.

But there is a trade-off to consider: while you may enjoy slightly cheaper premiums with a limited tort policy, you will wind up regretting it if you are ever seriously injured in an accident. Your settlement and recovery options will be very limited if you have a limited tort policy. Because you cannot ask for money for your non-monetary losses, you could wind up missing out on thousands and thousands of dollars. Rest assured, if ever that time comes, you will be kicking yourself for not having chosen a full tort policy.

With a full tort insurance policy, there are no limitations on when and how you recover. You have the right to sue or file a claim for recovery from an at-fault party if you so choose – and your injuries need not be catastrophic in order to do so. You may have to pay a little more for a full tort policy, but the amount you can recover after an accident is exponentially higher. It is well worth the investment.

What should I do if my insurance budget is tight?

Ask any car accident attorney and they will tell you that full tort policies are the way to go. If your budget is tight, rather than skimping and forfeiting your rights with a limited tort plan, consider other ways you can reduce your monthly premiums. You might try the following.

  • Opt for a higher deductible on your policy. Higher deductibles mean lower premiums.
  • Ask your insurer about discounts. Many companies will cut your premiums if you keep a good driving record, use extra safety features for your vehicle, and take driver safety courses.
  • Try purchasing insurance for your family’s vehicles (cars, motorcycles, boats, etc.) and your home from one company. They usually offer a discount for bundles.

What do I do if I have already been in an accident?

If you or your loved one suffered injuries in an accident, be sure to discuss your case with an accident lawyer. An attorney will be able to review your policy details, investigate fault and liability for you, and determine exactly what your options are.

Having an attorney facilitate your case can be extremely beneficial because a lawyer will not only be able to help you file documents and gather proof, but he will also be able to help you maximize your settlement so that you will have a fuller recovery. Attorneys know how to negotiate with insurers and quickly navigate a claim so that you can resolve your case sooner and get your settlement faster.

For a car accident attorney that represents victims in Pennsylvania and has a long history of successful settlements in the state, consider Cordisco & Saile LLC. Contact us today at 215-791-8911. Feel free to bring a list of any questions you may have to the meeting, and let us determine how we may be of service to you.