Exceptions to Pennsylvania's Limited Tort Restriction on Motor Vehicle Accident Victim's Right to Pursue an Injury Claim

Exceptions to Pennsylvania's Limited Tort Restriction on Motor Vehicle Accident Victim's Right to Pursue an Injury Claim

Posted By Law Offices of Thomas J. Murphy || 26-Nov-2010

Fortunately, the Pennsylvania auto law does provide several exceptions to Limited Tort, which will allow an injured individual bound by a Limited Tort selection to have Full Tort rights and to be able to bring a personal injury claim against a negligent driver's insurance policy. The exceptions are as follows:

  • If the negligent driver's vehicle is registered in a state other than Pennsylvania (such as New Jersey or Delaware).

  • If the negligent driver is convicted of, or accepts ARD for, driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (DUI).
  • If the injured individual was an occupant of a motor vehicle other than a private passenger motor vehicle at the time of the accident. Examples are commercial vehicles like a SEPTA bus, a truck, a taxi cab, a rental car or a limousine.
  • If the injured individual was a pedestrian or on a bicycle at the time of the accident.
  • If the owner of a motor vehicle is uninsured, only the registered owner of the vehicle is deemed by Pennsylvania law to be bound by Limited Tort. The vehicle owner's spouse and household relatives retain Full Tort rights.
  • The last catchall exception is if the injured individual's injuries are considered by the court to be a "serious injury." The law defines a "serious injury" as "A personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement." Whether an injury constitutes a "serious impairment of body function" or whether a disfiguring injury is "permanent and serious" sufficient to be deemed a "serious injury" to overcome the Limited Tort restriction is a gray area of the law. There is no general list of injuries deemed to be serious or not serious. Instead, the court pays specific attention to the impact of the injury on the particular individual. Thus, the same injury could be considered serious for one person and not serious for another. For example, a right hand dominant office worker, such as an accountant or lawyer, who fractures his left hand can probably still work his or her job with only minor difficulties, while a concert pianist who suffers the same fracture will not be able to work for months and may never be able to play at the same artistic level again. In this example, the court may rule that the office worker did not suffer "a serious injury," and thus, is still bound by the Limited Tort restriction and cannot pursue a personal injury claim, while at the same time ruling that the concert pianist has sustained "a serious injury" and retains Full Tort rights and can pursue a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. The court pays particular attention to whether the injured individual has lost time from work and whether the injuries were more than soft tissue in nature and whether surgery was required.

If you are reviewing this blog entry prior to being injured in a motor vehicle accident, then please take advantage of this information to make certain that you and your household family members are protected with Full Tort rights on the household automobile insurance policy. By obtaining automobile insurance, you are protecting the rest of the world in case you negligently cause a accident. Shouldn't you also protect yourself and your household family members in the same way by not forfeiting their rights and your right to compensation for injuries caused by another driver's negligence. When you take the small discount amount you receive from your insurance company for selecting Limited Tort and then divide that amount by the number of household family members whose rights are being lost, you will realize that the discount per person doesn't make sense and is not justifiable. If like many people you are only finding out the devastating effects of a Limited Tort selection after being injured in a accident, then learn from the mistake and change the automobile insurance policy in question to a Full Tort policy as soon as possible, so that you and your household family members are protected in the future. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

To obtain maximum financial compensation for your injuries, medical expenses and lost wages arising out of a motor vehicle accident, you should always consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible and before speaking to the negligent driver's insurance company. You will not be charged any fee by the personal injury attorney for the consultation and you will be getting protection from the professionally trained insurance claim representative, whose primary goals are to protect their insured driver and the insurance company's pocket book.